Pace of permits hindering reconstruction, Spanish CofC president says
In a statement Sunday from Puerto Rico’s Spanish Chamber of Commerce, the trade group’s president, Ramón González-Simounet, said the pace of the island’s development “is stagnant or slow” due to the complex system of permits run by the U.S. territory’s government agencies.
González, who recently attended a local energy symposium, has been proposing that either an “honor” method be implemented or that the permits process be simplified if a “healthy economy and sustainable development” is sought.
The also co-chair of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Committee and chief executive officer of propane distributor Empire Gas Group, said that despite the already available funding, such as “money that has been deposited in the banks and the multimillion-dollar allocations made by the Federal Government for the reconstruction of Puerto Rico after hurricanes Irma and María and the added complications of the earthquake in January 2020,” the island’s central government has failed to prioritize infrastructure projects that he stressed should have been underway.
“Puerto Rico has the best professionals in the field of energy worldwide and they are people who can help or advise the government so that the permits are issued as quickly as possible. We have the talent, but we don’t use it,” González denounced.
Warning that the federal disaster funding allocations for the island’s reconstruction “have an expiration date,” the trade leader pointed to “the time it takes to evaluate a permit” as the “biggest stumbling block for the developers” and other stakeholders.
“In cases, it takes up to five years to evaluate submitted documents to achieve a final authorization. The situation is worse when we talk about infrastructure megaprojects, many of which end up shelved. There have been cases in which government agencies do not issue a permit in final form due to the absence of an employee who has retired, who was assigned to those tasks and [whose] replacement has not been possible.”
Speaking before the forum where Puerto Rico’s integrated resource plan and renewable energy portfolio was discussed, González warned that manufacturing industries such as pharmaceuticals and energy-intensive companies are already switching to combined systems for production of their own energy supply in search of stability and cost efficiency.
“In each and every one of the renewable energy projects, many of them supported by the use of liquefied gas, the problem in their success is the slow pace of the permits at the government agencies. The interesting thing about all this is that we already have the clean, modern and economic technology to supply energy with liquefied gas or with solar panels,” the panelist assured.
The industry representative reiterated, however, that the government “has placed too many restrictions, demands and bureaucratic steps that at the end of a project become a serious headache, unnecessary expenses and a delay of up to five years to achieve the approval or grant of the permits requested.”
Calling for immediate change, González juxtaposed protecting the “environment or our coasts” with collaborative “efforts to help manufacturing and industries to install modern and efficient energy production equipment that allows for lower costs to continue their production as well as maintain the large workforce of Puerto Ricans who work there.”