AES accused of lobbying in favor of ash deposits
SAN JUAN — Sen. Luis Berdiel Rivera (D-Ponce) denounced that Applied Energy Systems (AES) hired lobbyists to press legislators in favor of carbon-ash deposits in the Peñuelas Valley Landfill, amid growing public concern regarding the ashes’ toxicity and potentially harmful effects on public health and the environment.
According to Berdiel Rivera, AES lobbyist Ángel Bosch de León contacted him to present “the necessary data to make an informed decision,” concerning bills that aim to prohibit carbon ash deposits and the use carbon combustion residue as a filler in construction projects and its disposal in Puerto Rico’s waters, such as Senate Bill 123, of his authorship.
In response, the senator reaffirmed he wouldn’t support the Guayama-based company because “my stance has always firmly been against the use and deposit of ashes in Puerto Rico.”
Apart from prohibiting ash deposits, S.B. 123 also proposes that ashes must be exported by their producers no more than 90 days after their generation, and they must be contained in closed constructions that prohibit their entry to the atmosphere. Violators would be charged with serious felony and/or exposed to a $10,000 penalty fee for each infringement, as determined by the court.
“Puerto Rico and this server are informed about AES and how ash deposits in our island affect the population. It’s enough to see how the people have gathered in protests before the media against their chemical materials that are harmful to our health. The health of our people is not for sale, nor at play,” maintained Berdiel Rivera in written declarations.
According to the bill, AES’s history of carbon ash deposits dates back to 2002, when the company established its installations in Guayama’s Barrio Jobos, producing about 250,000 annual tons of carbon ashes.
Initially, the company exported its ashes to the Dominican Republic so they could be used as construction material, but the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo published a study that revealed nearby residents suffered several diseases as a result, including: lung injuries, respiratory diseases, skin injuries, congenital defects, and spontaneous abortions. Subsequently, the Dominican government sued AES in Delaware courtrooms and the company paid a $6 million settlement.
Berdiel Rivera authored S.B. 123 and presented it alongside independent senator José Vargas Vidot. It is currently under consideration by the Senate’s Environmental Health & Natural Resources Commission.