Story at a glance
- Conservationists and climate groups filed a lawsuit against the federal government this week to stop a project to expand San Juan Bay to accommodate larger shipping vessels.
- Plaintiffs argue the project will hurt communities and the island’s wildlife.
- In addition, the project will prevent Puerto Rico from making good on a mandate to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050.
Climate groups have sued the federal government in an effort to stop a dredging project in Puerto Rico’s San Juan Bay.
A lawsuit was filed in Washington, D.C.’s district court earlier this week by El Puente, CORALations and the Center for Biological Diversity against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The project aims to expand the San Juan Bay shipping channel for large vessels. Widening the port would involve dredging and disposing of more than two million cubic yards of sediment from the bay’s floor, according to a statement from the plaintiffs.
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In the lawsuit, the conservation and climate groups argue that the Corps failed to prepare an environmental impact statement analyzing the effects of “tankers and a new terminal for liquified natural gas” on neighboring communities and wildlife.
Thousands of people who live in the adjacent neighborhoods of Cataño and Guaynabo were not properly notified of the project, plaintiffs said.
“This lawsuit will bring justice closer to the environmental justice communities located on the southwest part of the San Juan Bay. These communities from Cataño and Guaynabo have fought and dealt for years with the systemic placement of power plants and fuel terminals, which places a disproportionate burden on these disadvantaged communities whose population is primarily composed of minorities,” said Federico Cintrón Moscoso, director of El Puente in a statement.
“We reject this project because it will aggravate the already acute situation and circumstances which these communities encounter day to day.”
Plaintiffs also argue that the project would hinder the progress of a 2019 mandate enacted to transition the island away from fossil fuels.
The law was enacted shortly after Hurricane Maria hit the island, killing at least 3,000 people and knocking out most of its power grid.
Under the law, 40 percent of Puerto Rico’s electricity must come from renewable energy by 2025 and 100 percent by 2050.
“By deepening the shipping channel for fossil fuel imports, this project also deepens the climate crisis,” said Catherine Kilduff, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Corps’ plan to dredge San Juan Bay is a disaster for the corals and wildlife that inhabit the sensitive estuary and for Puerto Rico’s plans to transition to renewable energy.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers told Changing America that the agency does not comment on matters in litigation.
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