The years-long battle the local Gasoline Retailers Association has waged against the permit process allowing Costco Wholesale to build a station in Carolina took a new turn Wednesday, when the trade group said it will scale its complaint to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.
Costco first applied for a permit to build a gas station at its store in Carolina in 2015, and after several years, it was granted by the government’s Office of Permits Management. The permit includes the construction of three 30,000-gallon underground tanks, one 15,000-gallon aerial tank, and a gas station with several service pumps.
However, the Gasoline Retailers claim the permit process includes “several irregularities,” such as jurisdictional issues related to territorial limits between the San Juan and Carolina municipalities, which government agency should be considering the case — the Permits Management Office versus the Planning Board — the lack of a mandatory transit study, and environmental issues not being evaluated correctly.
The Association also believes that there are violations against Law 73, which protects retailers and guarantees that they operate under the same conditions, including the required distance of the station from a school.
Luis Sepúlveda, president of the organization, said based on these and other concerns, the group appealed the permit granted by the Permits Management Office through an administrative review petition filed at the Appellate Court, which denied it.
Now, the Gasoline Retailers Association is preparing its case to go before the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, he said.
“Our organization has been wrongly accused of being against the establishment of Costco’s gas station because we don’t welcome competition,” he said.
“Nothing is further from the truth, but it is not fair that the government supports a process that basically represents a monopolistic practice and that there is no viability study available, which is required by law, showing that other gas stations located within a 1,600-meter radius will not be adversely affected by this permit,” said Sepúlveda.
The Gasoline Retailers Association, which has 300 members, has been keeping close tabs on the Costco permit process for the past four years. It has been publicly denouncing what they claim are “severe irregularities and preferential treatment to the mega store.”