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Puerto Rico rep takes request for EQB documents to court

By on August 15, 2017

SAN JUAN – After the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) failed to produce documentation authorizing Applied Energy Systems (AES) to unload 34 trucks full of alleged toxic ashes at the Peñuelas landfill, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Rep. Denis Márquez has asked a court for the panel to present all documentation relating to that incident.

When on July 12 a truck convoy belonging to EC Waste, which manages the Peñuelas Valley Landfill (PVL), presumably loaded with ash produced from burning coal, arrived to the site, the representative demanded that the EQB produce the document authorizing the deposit at that time as well as the justification for granting the permit.

Márquez also requested information about the amount of ash deposited the prior evening, how they were deposited or used to solidify industrial liquid waste, whether the EQB inspected the deposit and any other related document.

The dispute was triggered by an alleged coal ash dumping at the Peñuelas Valley Landfill on July 12. (File)

“The information is fundamental to fulfill my legislative responsibilities and before the constant signaling out by the communities of Peñuelas that the EQB is not fulfilling its oversight duties. We question that the EQB, a government agency whose main function is the protection and conservation of the environment, has chosen not to submit the information required by us and that is why we have filed this lawsuit aimed at vindicating our legislative prerogatives,” Márquez denounced.

However, in a press release, the executive director of the EQB, Tania Vázquez, indicated that a letter had already been sent to the lawmaker letting him know that all public documents were available and inviting Márquez to visit the entity’s headquarters to review them personally.

“Unfortunately, according to the expressions Mr. Márquez Lebrón sent to the media, he has declined our invitation, and has concentrated on the banal argument about whether the letters he sent to the EQB were officially [received] in our office. If any of the letters delivered by Mr. Márquez Lebrón were stamped in my office, they didn’t reach my desk. However, the letters [Vázquez] ordered to be located in the agency were delivered and stamped in the area of permissions for the EQB,” Vázquez said.

“We reiterate our invitation to Mr. Márquez Lebrón to visit us, and to review all the public documents he deems necessary in order to comply with his legislative work. If his legitimate interest is to legislate and to inspect, and for this he need these documents, there is no reason to wait another day, when he could visit us today, review them, and leave with his copies,” she added.

Vázquez stressed that under Article 1170 of the Civil Code of Puerto Rico, which states that public documents are those authorized by a notary or competent employee, with the solemnities required by law, and Article 409 of the Code of Civil Procedure, provides that every citizen has the right to inspect and photocopy any public document of Puerto Rico.

The EQB head recalled that there have been multiple occasions when the panel has responded to the requirements of both the Senate and the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico, so much of the information required by Márquez is also available in both legislative bodies.

“The EQB has complied with all the petitions that have been made, officially, by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Likewise, we have fully complied with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations, taking into account that the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] as well as federal legislation and all tests certified by licensed chemicals have again and again classified the coal-combustion residue as non-hazardous,” Vázquez said.

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