Puerto Rican stateside lawmakers Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez and Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez met with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Thursday to brief him — and express their opposition — on the waste-to-energy incinerator project proposed by Energy Answers in Arecibo.
Pending public feedback of a draft Environmental Impact Statement, the USDA is potentially poised to provide assistance to Energy Answers for the incinerator through a federal loan.
Both legislators have received numerous appeals for assistance from individuals and organizations that oppose the project and feel shut out of the process. There are serious concerns with the impacts to human health, the environment, and the economy, according to sources.
Velázquez and Gutiérrez reportedly told Vilsack about “the deficiencies in the public’s ability to comment and the USDA’s process for soliciting public comment.”
“We briefed the secretary on everything we are hearing and tried to be a voice for those who have been unable to raise their own voices so far in the process,” the representatives said in a joint statement after the meeting.
One of the main stumbling blocks is that information provided at town hall meetings is available only in English, which “exclude large segments of the Puerto Rican people.”
Both members of Congress stressed the need for transparency, openness, communications in Spanish, and legitimate public engagement in evaluating the project that has come under heavy fire from communities who could suffer economic and environmental impacts.
“We will continue to keep in close touch with Secretary Vilsack and the communities that are affected because ultimately the Obama administration will determine if this project moves forward and we want them to know we are keeping a very close eye on things on behalf of the Puerto Rican people,” they said in the statement.