Puerto Rico Community Groups Challenge USDA’s Backing of Waste Incinerator Project

The proposed Arecibo waste incinerator would jeopardize communities and endangered species


Betsy Lopez-Wagner, Earthjustice, 415-217-2159


Myrna Conty, Amigos del Río Guaynabo, 787-360-6358


Javier Biaggi, Comité Basura Cero-Arecibo, 787-371-1709


Adriana González, Sierra Club Puerto Rico, 787-688-6214

Local community groups, represented by Earthjustice, a national nonprofit environmental law firm, and the Vermont Law School Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic submitted a notice to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today explaining their commitment to sue USDA if federal funding and approval is given to move the polluting waste incinerator project forward. 

The project not only puts the community in danger, but also puts iconic endangered species in harm’s way, including the Puerto Rican Crested Toad, Puerto Rican Boa, and manatees, and the Puerto Rican Parrot. 

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service has been considering the proposal to fund a waste incinerator in Arecibo, Puerto Rico for Energy Answers since 2010. Groups are concerned the move would pave the way for generating dirty energy for decades, sending high volumes of waste to incineration and high volumes of air pollutants into an area that already exceeds safe concentrations for lead in ambient air. 

The following is a statement by Earthjustice Attorney Jonathan Smith on behalf of Amigos Del Río Guaynabo, Inc., Ciudadanos En Defensa Del Ambiente, Comité Basura Cero Arecibo, Madres De Negro de Arecibo, and Sierra Club de Puerto Rico:  

“Any way you look at it, the Arecibo Incinerator is a disastrous idea for the people, environment, and financial health of Puerto Rico. USDA has not adequately looked at many of these issues, including impacts to threatened and endangered species from a project that will emit tons of hazardous pollutants into the air and pump millions of gallons of water a day from Puerto Rico’s largest wetland reserve.  USDA must conduct an endangered species consultation because the scarce analysis it has done to date does not meet the requirements of the law.” 

Related information: Community members and municipalities across Puerto Rico are against the proposed incinerator, a facility which would lock in the most expensive and polluting means to control waste and the most expensive and polluting means to generate electricity—all while exposing communities already suffering from unsafe lead levels and other toxic emissions to even more pollution. Visit http://prohibidoincinerar.org or follow the conversation on social media against the waste incinerator via #prohibidoincinerar.

Read the Spanish version of this release.

Read the Notice of Intent to Sue.

A view of the verdant landscape of Puerto Rico through an opening in the rocky mountainside.
Outside of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, the construction of a 2,100-ton-per-day municipal solid waste incinerator may begin despite a poor environmental impact evaluation. (Sharkhats / CC BY-NC 2.0)

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