Sen. Santiago arrested as new House Commission appointed to evaluate Peñuelas ash deposit
PEÑUELAS – Sen. María de Lourdes Santiago was arrested Wednesday in Peñuelas, where she was protesting the disposal of coal ash in a Peñuelas landfill alongside dozens of demonstrators and area residents.
“This cowardice is only carried out in poor and marginalized communities,” the legislator said while being arrested following having demanded approval of a bill she filed to prohibit the disposal of coal ash in Puerto Rico.
Forty others were arrested with Santiago, among them LGBTTQ community activist Pedro Julio Serrano. They were taken to the Ponce police station where they will be charged with obstructing traffic.
It was not immediately known if the senator’s arrest was valid. That’s because there is a constitutional provision barring legislators from being arrested while their chamber is in session nor 15 days before or after a session, except for treason, a felony or altering the peace. The provision also says members of the Legislature enjoy legislative immunity for their votes and remarks.
Meanwhile the new president of the Southern Region Development Committee, Jackeline Rodríguez, announced that the commission will be evaluating everything related to the ash disposal.
“The…continuous deposit of coal ash in the Peñuelas landfill must be evaluated. This commission will be very active in that sense,” the representative of district 25 assured.
“The health of the residents of the region is our priority. We won’t spare any efforts in safeguarding it,” she stressed.
The coal ash is generated by an Applied Energy Systems (AES) plant operating since 2002 at the Jobos community of Guayama that produces about 1,000 tons of ash daily as a direct result of the burning of carbon. It is estimated that up to 300,000 tons of ash is produced yearly.