Energy

Puerto Rico Government Blames Jones Act For Island’s Slow Recovery

Officials with the oversight board responsible for dealing with Puerto Rico’s crippling debt blamed a decade’s old law for the catastrophically high cost of restoring the island’s infrastructure.

“I support your effort to relook at the Jones Act,” Natalie Jaresko, the executive director of Puerto Rico’s financial oversight board, told congressmen before the House Natural Resources Committee. “It is an additional cost for the island.”

Jaresko, whose group is responsible for addressing the American territory’s crippling debt, was referring to a law passed in 1920 prohibiting tankers from transporting oil between ports unless the vessels are American-made. (RELATED: The Jones Act Puts America First)

Trump temporarily lifted the restriction after officials argued the law made it more difficult to ship supplies to Puerto Rico. He was initially hesitant to wave the law.

“We have a lot of shippers and a lot of people and a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted,” Trump told reporters in September. “We have a lot of ships out there right now.”

Other members of the group echoed Jaresko’s position.

“Any measures that Congress takes to ensure the cost of shipping fuels to Puerto Rico is reduced is a positive step towards rebuilding the economy,” said Noel Zamot, a board member who was recently appointed emergency manager of the island’s bankrupt power utility. The utility board came under fire after it forged a contract with a small, inexperienced Montana company to rebuild Puerto Rico’s crumbling infrastructure.

Congress created the financial oversight board under the Obama administration to oversee the restructuring process of the island’s $73 billion debt load. The island’s native population fear the board is a type of colonial devise depriving Puerto Rico of independence.

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