Center for Biological Diversity

Media Advisory, June 2, 2023

Contact:

Gaby Sarri-Tobar, (202) 594-7271, gsarritobar@biologicaldiversity.org

Embattled Puerto Rico Dredging Project Faces Court Hearing

Puerto Rico Residents, Environmental Groups to Rally at D.C. Courthouse

WASHINGTON— A federal district court will hear oral arguments Monday in a lawsuit that challenges a proposed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredging project in San Juan Bay, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico residents and environmental groups will hold a rally outside the courthouse before the hearing.

The dredging would expand shipping channels in the bay to allow for massive tankers full of oil and liquified natural gas. The suit challenges the federal government’s inadequate environmental review of the project.

"This case occurs at a historic moment, where President Biden has called to reduce fossil infrastructure and increase investment in renewable energy,” said Federico Cintron Moscoso, program director of El Puente. “The San Juan Bay dredging project shows the unequal treatment we experience in Puerto Rico, where a true transition to clean, renewable energy is not taking place. Expanding the bay channel to drown us in methane gas not only ensures our energy dependency, but threatens the health of our protected species and environmental justice communities. We hope that the judge will listen to our arguments and provide justice for our people and our environment."

“Harmful dredging to pave the way for even more fossil fuel dependency will not help build a resilient energy future in Puerto Rico,” said Gaby Sarri-Tobar, energy justice campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This community’s needs have been ignored throughout the planning of this project, and community members are the ones who’ll be harmed. They want a transition to rooftop solar and energy independence, not more fossil fuels that bring more damage to wildlife, asthma from pollution, and destructive hurricanes.”

What: Community members will rally before the hearing against a proposed federal dredging project that will harm corals and bring more fossil fuels to Puerto Rico.

When: June 5, 2023, 2 p.m. EDT (rally); 3 p.m. EDT (hearing).

Where: The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, 333 Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington D.C. 20001.

Who: Residents of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and community leaders from El Puente and representatives from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Background

The lawsuit, brought by El Puente, CORALations and the Center for Biological Diversity, challenges the Army Corps’ failure to prepare an environmental impact statement analyzing the effects of tankers and a new terminal for liquified natural gas on environmental justice communities, corals and wildlife. The dredging project drives fossil fuel dependence, impeding Puerto Rico’s commitment to transition to renewable energy.

The Army Corps never evaluated the environmental impacts of the fossil fuel tankers and infrastructure, and it completely omitted any analysis of pollution effects on overburdened environmental justice communities nearest the fossil fuel terminals and refineries.

The project’s dredging threatens to smother corals and suck up sea turtles, including endangered leatherback sea turtles — hazards that the Corps discounted. Project reviewers concluded that endangered corals will not be harmed, ignoring reports that a similar dredging project off Miami killed half a million corals. That failure to account for precedence demonstrated in Miami is also the subject of the suit.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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