Last week an investigation by La Perla del Sur newspaper revealed that AES-PR has been working since June 2021 to transfer the ownership of its coal plant in Guayama to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the local public utility. This transfer would leave AES-PR to serve as the operator of the facility while shifting all of its expenses to the Puerto Rican government via PREPA’s public ratepayers — including over $150 million needed to properly manage the site’s toxic coal ash. Disturbingly, this negotiation between AES-PR and PREPA has been taking place behind closed doors without public input or an opportunity to comment.
“It is unacceptable that a multibillion dollar corporation like AES is turning to a public agency with its own financial troubles and begging for a bailout to clean up its mess. AES-PR must be held responsible for managing and cleaning up its toxic coal ash left behind from burning coal. The cost of keeping AES’s neighbors safe from coal ash is part of this responsibility — it should not fall on the shoulders of Puerto Rican communities who are suffering from the harms caused by the waste,” said Ruth Santiago, Earthjustice trustee, attorney and environmental justice advocate.
AES-PR blames the environmental law passed by the Puerto Rican legislature in 2020 requiring the removal of its coal ash to protect nearby communities and the South Coast aquifer from toxic pollutants for putting the company in this financial position to seek a taxpayer bailout. However, AES-PR has been in violation of its coal ash agreement with PREPA for decades: long before this law was passed. Taking financial responsibility for the full price of operating into AES-PR’s budget, including environmental cleanup, is long overdue.
This revelation comes on the heels of a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) letter of compliance to AES-PR. The letter details the lack of supporting data to show how the company’s proposed cleanup plan will actually restore the groundwater and ensure pollutants like lithium and selenium will not continue to contaminate groundwater. EPA’s letter illuminates the various deficiencies in the plan and requires AES-PR to provide immediate responses.
“In light of this new development, we are calling on PREPA to reject AES-PR’s deplorable attempt to sidestep its responsibility, and accelerate the closure of this polluting facility before its contract expires in 2027,” said Christine Santillana, legislative counsel, Earthjustice.