PUERTO RICO OVERSIGHT BOARD MISLEADS CONGRESS ON INCINERATOR; IGNORES LANDFILL CRISIS

Energy Answers’ billion-dollar taxpayer-funded boondoggle is the new Whitefish

Yesterday’s testimony by Noel Zamot, the Revitalization Coordinator for the Puerto Rico Financial Oversight Management Board, championing a trash incinerator to solve the Commonwealth’s toxic landfill situation is grossly misleading, and shows contempt for the environmental tragedy that has unfolded for a decade in Puerto Rico.

There is nothing about a trash incinerator that will help address the municipal landfill crisis in Puerto Rico.  The incinerator is nothing more than a $750 million taxpayer-funded bridge-to-nowhere that will generate little power at a high price and contribute nothing to solving the landfill crisis.  By demanding 75% of its billion-dollar price tag to be financed by American taxpayers, this is more than just a boondoggle, it’s the next Whitefish.

The real solution to the landfill crisis is closing the toxic sites and building a safe, sustainable waste management system that will serve Puerto Rico’s recovery and economic rebound.  We believed, until yesterday, that the Board believed this, too. This is disappointing.

Furthermore, Zamot falsely claimed that the landfill crisis in Puerto Rico “is the reason why the EPA is supporting this project”, when in fact the EPA plays no role in “supporting” Energy Answers’ efforts but merely issues permits, and the EPA has never expressed support for their incinerator as a solution to the landfill crisis.

We thank Congressman Gutierrez and Ranking Member Grijalva for their continued support in the fight against the environmental injustice we have faced in Puerto Rico’s landfill crisis, and condemn the attempts by the Board and their cronies to pollute Puerto Rico for their own self-interests.

We call upon the Trump administration, Congress and Governor Rosselló to prioritize funding for closure in the forthcoming supplemental that will soon be discussed and voted upon in Washington.

To learn more about Puerto Rico Limpio, its mission and important information about dangerous, non-compliant landfills, go to: PuertoRicoLimpio.org, Puerto Rico Limpio on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter: @PRLimpioOrg.

 

Posted in EPA

HOW THE EPA CONTINUES TO POISON PUERTO RICO

Unenforced Orders, Worthless Consent Decrees and No Fines for Lawbreakers 

(SAN JUAN, P.R. – April 27, 2017) Puerto Rico Limpio released a new report today after a painstaking investigation of EPA documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) which belie the Agency’s public claims of great progress towards closing 12 toxic, non-compliant municipal landfills in Puerto Rico. The report reveals that, in fact, the EPA has known that 19 out of the island’s 29 landfills are illegal open dumps, and continue to operate despite openly violating federal law.

“The report reveals yet more evidence of criminal neglect by the EPA,” said Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio. “Recent actions in Toa Alta and Santa Isabel are simply an elaborate cover-up by the EPA to hide 8 years of bureaucratic ineptness and criminal negligence.”

The new report, entitled “How the EPA Continues to Poison Puerto Rico”, had a number of key findings based on EPA documents and other evidence posted online with the report today:

  • No evidence was found that any of the still-open landfills “facing action” or consent decrees have been brought into compliance over the last decade.  In fact, all of them continue to break federal laws and continue to pose an imminent threat to the environment and to the public.
  • A letter in 2011 from the Obama Administration to the EQB under Governor Luis Fortuño warned against being too hasty in closing toxic landfills, making lighter enforcement a policy of the EPA.
  • In the list of 12 landfills “under EPA action,” the EPA was found to have systematically failed to follow through, letting deadlines pass repeatedly, allowing operators to ignore benchmarks and endlessly postpone even minimal improvements.
  • The EPA knew of the environmental harm and persistent threat for years even while issuing consent decrees and administrative orders, and never immediately suspended operations at any landfill despite the danger. The most recent example was the administrative order issued against Toa Alta landfill on April 11 of this year, which detailed extreme violations of RCRA and multiple iterations of the “imminent endangerment to human health and the environment” but allowed the landfill to continue receiving and dumping waste in unlined cells through the end of the year.

“Recent comments by certain individuals claiming they do not have the regulatory authority to close, that a lock won’t work, a transfer station cannot be built or the fiscal situation prevents closure, is simply perpetuating an environmental crime against their fellow citizens,” said Torres Montalvo.

To read “How the EPA Continues to Poison Puerto Rico”, visit: http://puertoricolimpio.org/how-the-epa-continues-to-poison-puerto-rico/?lang=en

EPA “CLOSURE” OF SANTA ISABEL: WE’LL BELIEVE IT WHEN WE SEE IT

Long-delayed action fits EPA pattern of non-enforcement of judicial actions and orders on Puerto Rico landfills

(SAN JUAN, P.R. – April 25, 2017) – Puerto Rico Limpio today called the recent announcement of a settlement with the municipality and operator of Santa Isabel landfill “worthless” until it is actually enforced, something the EPA has failed to do in nearly every other such action for decades in Puerto Rico.

“We welcome this closure action on paper, but the EPA has rarely enforced them in Puerto Rico. A settlement is worthless until it’s enforced, and we’ll believe this one when we see it enforced,” said Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio.

“There is no reason to believe the Santa Isabel municipality will comply with the settlement since 19 out of 29 landfills operating today in Puerto Rico are not complying with EPA rules, orders or consent decrees,” Torres Montalvo added. “There were years of delay in the EPA taking this action, and only as a result of recent Congressional inquiry has the EPA begun to act. Unfortunately for the people of Santa Isabel, until this new settlement is enforced, the violations will continue, the dangers to the environment will be allowed, and no one will be held accountable. This is the pattern the EPA has followed in Puerto Rico for a decade.”

Torres Montalvo called on the U.S. Congress to look into all cases of unenforced settlements, consent decrees and administrative orders issued by the EPA against toxic landfills in Puerto Rico, and insisted that the administration of Governor Ricardo Rosselló and the new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, work together to undo the harm of the previous administrations’ negligence and move toward immediate enforcement of federal and local law against non-compliant landfills.

“It’s time to turn the page on failed policies and enforce the law in Puerto Rico immediately,” Torres Montalvo concluded. “Every closure order must be immediately enforced, and every toxic landfill’s gates must be locked today.”

Posted in EPA

LETTER TO OFFICIALS: LOCK THE GATES ON PUERTO RICO’S TOXIC LANDFILLS


In a joint letter to the EPA and Puerto Rican DNRA, Puerto Rico Limpio tells Pruitt and Vázquez Rivera that administrative orders and court filings are not enough

(SAN JUAN, P.R. – April 19, 2017) Today, Puerto Rico Limpio released a joint letter it sent to Administrator Scott Pruitt of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Secretary Tania Vázquez Rivera of the Puerto Rican Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNRA) asking them to use existing authority to immediately close all of Puerto Rico’s toxic municipal landfills.

Torres Montalvo reminded the officials that “in a letter to Puerto Rico Limpio late last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledged that 19 of the island’s 29 landfills do not even meet the most basic federal requirements, making them illegal open dumps.” However, he noted, “only 12 of those landfills are under any form of action to close and none of them have been fully enforced yet. The result has been an environmental disaster across the island that continues to this day.”

“Recent actions taken by the EPA in Toa Alta and Santa Isabel are simply window dressing aimed at appeasing Puerto Rico Limpio and Congressional investigators. They are fake closures and judicial actions,” wrote Torres Montalvo.

The letter urged Pruitt and Vázquez Rivera to “work together to use your authority and close all of Puerto Rico’s toxic landfills immediately. Administrative orders and court filings have been filed and ignored for over a decade with no consequences,” Torres Montalvo wrote. “Additional paperwork is not the answer; putting a lock on the gates of Puerto Rico’s toxic landfills is,” he concluded.

To read the letter Puerto Rico Limpio sent to Administrator Pruitt and Secretary Vázquez Rivera, click here.

ICYMI – PADLOCK THE TOXIC LANDFILLS IN PUERTO RICO

Puerto Rico’s leading newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, published an op-ed today by Puerto Rico Limpio co-founder Hiram Torres Montalvo in which he labeled the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s announcement of closure at the toxic landfill in Toa Alta “fake news.”

The truth, he wrote, is that Toa Alta will remain open, still receiving waste and still posing an imminent threat to the public and the environment. One thing is clear: the EPA and the Government of Puerto Rico have not used their authority to close any of the more than 70% of the Island’s landfills that are open and operating today, which violate the law and threaten our communities.

An Excerpt from: “Padlock the toxic landfills” by Hiram J. Torres Montalvo (April 13th, 2017)

EL NUEVO DIA:
…“The EPA claimed this order was shutting down the landfill and stopping them from accepting waste. But this was fake news. The action by the EPA did neither, and in fact, Toa Alta can continue to operate.”

… “The EPA estimates that up to 30,000 children and elderly living in Toa Alta face a heightened imminent danger to their health right now.”

The time for excuses is over. We can no longer blame former administrations for today’s mistakes. We can no longer simply go to Washington to ask for more Medicaid monies and promote statehood. The U.S. Congress and the Financial Oversight Board have spoken, and both want to see closure.”

To read the full article in El Nuevo Dia, click here.

OPEN LETTER URGES CONGRESSIONAL TASK FORCE AND OVERSIGHT BOARD TO SUPPORT CLOSURE OF TOXIC LANDFILLS

Today, Puerto Rico Limpio released letters to members of the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, Resident Commissioner González, and the Financial Oversight and Management Board, which urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Governor Rosselló to close Puerto Rico’s toxic municipal landfills.

“The EPA continues to intentionally deceive the Puerto Rican people by claiming they are closing 13 landfills,” said Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio, “We have written Congress and the Oversight Board to ask for their help in compelling the EPA and Governor Rosselló to ensure that these toxic landfills do get closed.”

“Neither the EPA nor the Puerto Rican Government are using their authority to close these toxic dumps,” said the group in its letter to the Congressional Task Force. “The Puerto Rican people can no longer suffer because officials refuse to enforce the preexisting law,” Torres Montalvo exclaimed.

“The closure of toxic landfills is important to Puerto Rico’s future. We urge that the responsible parties make the tough decisions needed to put locks on the gates of these landfills today,” said Torres Montalvo.

EPA ALLOWS TOA ALTA LANDFILL TO STAY OPEN AND ACCEPT TRASH

Garcia Padilla allowed Toa Alta to operate without permit from Environmental Quality Board; Puerto Rico Limpio Renews Calls for U.S. EPA and Governor Rosselló to lock the gates and shut toxic landfill down

(TOA ALTA, P.R. – April 12, 2017) – Puerto Rico Limpio condemned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for allowing the toxic Toa Alta landfill to remain open and operating despite documenting extensive criminal acts and the poisoning of Puerto Rico’s aquifers.

“The EPA has given a green light to Toa Alta to continue breaking the law,” said Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio.  “This is sheer incompetence by EPA Region 2 and Caribbean director Carmen Guerrero.  The EPA can close Toa Alta today, but they refuse to do it.”

The 53-page Administrative Order by the U.S. EPA revealed extensive details on how the EPA has known about the illegal conditions at Toa Alta landfill since 2004, but failed to use their authority to shut it down.  Further, the EPA report reveals that former Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla allowed the landfill to continue operating without an EQB permit.  Unfortunately, the administration of Governor Rosselló appears to be following the footsteps of Garcia Padilla by not requiring a permit from Toa Alta, either.

The EPA findings are frightening:

  • Toa Alta landfill is operating without a permit from the Government of Puerto Rico, and is classified as an “open dump” which is prohibited to operate under federal law.
  • The landfill has no liner to protect groundwater from contamination and no controls on gas emissions which pose a threat of explosion and contain cancer-causing materials.
  • With no inspection of waste entering the landfill, the EPA estimates about 30 million tons of hazardous household waste is currently in the ground and leaching toxic materials into the environment.
  • Toa Alta generates about 4 million gallons of toxic leachates per year, which it discharges illegally into large ponds over unlined sinkholes, into the North Coast Limestone Aquifer, into the Rio de la Plata and tributaries, and threatens at least 16 PRASA and USGS water sources.
  • The landfill has standing water which breeds mosquitos that can carry the Zika virus, and threatens more than 100 homes and businesses within mosquito flight range.
  • The trash piles are so steep that EPA officials deemed some of them too dangerous to approach in order to measure them.
  • The EPA estimates that up to 30,000 children and old people live in Toa Alta –nearly half the municipality’s population – and face a heightened danger from contaminates coming out of the landfill.

“We demand Governor Rosselló shut down Toa Alta, today,” said Torres Montalvo.  “Allowing Toa Alta to continue to operate without a permit and in the face of incompetence at the EPA endangers the lives of all Puerto Ricans.  Governor Rosselló can change that today.  It would also send a signal to Washington and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that under Governor Rosselló, Puerto Rico follows the rule of law, and is befitting to become a state.”

TIME FOR EPA ENFORCEMENT AT LANDFILLS

Puerto Rico Limpio asks EPA administrator Pruitt to enforce the rule of law and end 8 years of negligence from the EPA Region 2 office.

(SAN JUAN, PR – April 3, 2017) Today, Puerto Rico Limpio released a letter sent to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, Scott Pruitt, urging him to use his authority to immediately close all 20 toxic, illegal, non-compliant landfills in Puerto Rico.

“Since the launch of our campaign the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, and the Financial Oversight and Management Board have acknowledged the islands landfill crisis and urged action be taken, it is now time for administrator Pruitt to use the EPA’s authority and resources to close these toxic dumps once and for all,” said Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio.

The group urged the administrator to uphold the founding principles of the EPA, and enforce the preexisting laws governing solid waste management. Puerto Rico Limpio is calling on the EPA to implement the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) section 7003 and to utilize funds under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to bring immediate closure at all non-compliant sites.

The crisis in Puerto Rico has long been ignored by the EPA. For the past 8 years, President Obama appointee’s, administrator Gina McCarthy and former Region 2 administrator Judith Enck, documented the crisis but never once enforced the law to close these toxic landfills.

“We recently sent letters to Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, we are confident that the collaborative efforts of Rosselló, González, the Financial Oversight and Management Board, along with administrator Pruitt will bring justice to Puerto Rico and finally end this crisis,” said Torres Montalvo.

To read the letter from Puerto Rico Limpio sent to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, click here.