PIP lawmaker: DNER administrative order poses environmental threat

By John McPhaul

Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Rep. Denis Márquez Lebrón denounced over the weekend the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources’ (DNER) approval “behind the public’s back” of an administrative order that eliminates environmental requirements and would allow communities and natural and agricultural areas of high ecological value to be adversely impacted.

Márquez said Administrative Order 2020-17 expands the list of “categorical exclusions” that do not require environmental impact documents, thus allowing actions and projects that harm the environment to evade a rigorous environmental assessment without a meritorious reason.

“In what constitutes another deplorable action by the DNER, they have approved this administrative order just one day before the elections, without prior public notification, excluding citizens, interest groups and scientific sectors from its evaluation, and which clears the way so that particular interests can start their projects freely and without filters,” Márquez said.

The newly re-elected PIP legislator specified that the new categorical exclusions nullify the prerequisites in processes such as requests for variation in use, change of qualification or a location inquiry, evaluation of concessions and authorizations for the use of public domain assets that do not require a construction site which, consequently, could allow excavations, extractions, removals or dredging of public domain assets such as hydrographic basins and components of the earth’s crust in the coastal zone.

He added that even the tons of air pollutant emissions that a project can release are increased and still meet the categorical exclusion requirements under the order.

“With this new administrative order, the DNER once again betrays the people and its ministerial function of protecting the environment and grants a blank check to certain unscrupulous interests whose sensitivity to the environment has always been zero,” Márquez said. “I will address this matter at the legislative level during the next four-year term and I will remain, as always, alert and in communication with environmental organizations and citizens who have given us the voice of alarm.”

The PIP spokesman in the House of Representatives expressed solidarity with groups such as the Sierra Club and Ciudadanos del Karso that are demanding in court that the administrative order be nullified.

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