Energy

Here’s How EPA Red Tape Forced 3.5 Million Puerto Ricans To Live In The Dark

(REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter

Puerto Rico’s entire population is still out of power Thursday after a fire at a power plant shut down the island’s grid, and they have the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to thank.

The fire burned up an old oil-burning power plant that was going to be shut down and replaced by a new natural gas burning power plant. That is, until the EPA killed the plan.

Now, 3.5 million people are out of electricity.

EPA blocked Puerto Rico’s plans to import the liquefied natural gas (LNG) to run the new plant in the name of saving sea turtles. The agency has delayed the LNG terminal for more than two years by forcing design changes to limit its impact on coral reefs. No construction work has begun on the import terminal.

“Given that the system is so old, numerous setbacks could occur,” Puerto Rico’s Democratic Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla told reporters. “The system is not designed to withstand a failure of this magnitude.”

Many of the island’s schools cancelled classes due to the power outage and Puerto Rico’s largest public hospital canceled elective surgeries and non-urgent appointments.

Padilla wrote a letter to the EPA in January telling the agency its policy could “threaten reliability of the entire power grid and cripple our economic recovery.” Padilla said transitioning to natural gas power will lower the island’s electricity bills, help the environment and boost their economy.

The planned LNG plan would have lowered electricity prices for the island’s 1.5 million customers, who already pay about twice as much for power than the average American, according to the Energy Information Administration. Even though the LNG terminal will lower carbon dioxide emissions and reduce the risk of oil spills, it has been heavily opposed and even legally challenged by local environmental groups.

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