Residents, environmentalists call on governor to reject coal plant bailout
By The Star Staff
Residents of southern island communities and environmental activists protested Monday in front of La Fortaleza demanding that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia reject a proposed financial rescue of the AES coal plant located in Guayama.
Yanina Moreno, from the Anti-Ash Camp in Peñuelas, said the protesters are against public funds being provided to the coal plant, against which they have fought for years due to the harmful effect of coal ash on their health.
“AES requested a financial rescue because they allege that they are in a state of economic precariousness,” Moreno said during the demonstration. “However, we have spent years demanding that the government listen to the demands of the people in our communities, the people who are victimized by environmental pollution, who are prone to higher incidences of cancer, of respiratory diseases.”
Because of changes to the law, AES must shut down operations in 2027, when a ban on the use of coal as fuel will go into effect.
Nonetheless, a local media outlet reported recently that AES requested a bailout from the government of Puerto Rico.
The coal company said that unless the government does not assume the costs and ownership of the coal plant, they were going to cancel the power purchase agreement contract, citing “force majeure.” AES provides about 15% to 25% of Puerto Rico’s energy needs, according to reports.
AES President Jesús Bolinaga denied that AES requested an economic rescue. He said the plant is not facing economic problems and that AES is planning to transform it into a renewable-energy plant.
“We are planning to advance to renewables,” he said.
Rolando Emmanuelli, a lawyer for PREPA’s union, recently said he saw a letter sent to the government seeking an economic rescue and that, in effect, saying the coal-burning plant was undergoing financial troubles and requesting that the government purchase the Guayama facility.