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Gutiérrez pide investigación contra Cuerpo de Ingenieros

Luis Gutiérrez. (Josian Bruno/NotiCel)

07/12/2011 01:32 pm
El congresista Luis Gutiérrez acudió hoy otra vez al hemiciclo congresional para llamar la atención sobre el proyecto del gasoducto, esta vez con una denuncia en contra del Cuerpo de Ingenieros del Ejército por la forma en que manejaron su evaluación del proyecto.

Específicamente, Gutiérrez pidió una investigación del Inspector General del Ejército de los Estados Unidos por la relación cercana que hay entre los oficiales del Cuerpo en la oficina de Jacksonville y los representantes de BCPeabody, la consultora de la Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica (AEE) con oficinas en Florida.

"Hay una relación claramente estrecha entre el equipo de Jacksonville y los exfuncionarios que ahora supervisan o trabajan para BCPeabody... ¿el resultado? El Cuerpo de Ingenieros del Ejército ha adoptado todos los argumento de la AEE sobre el proyecto", argumentó.

Gutiérrez también se quejó de que el Cuerpo sometiera su evaluación a los comentarios de la comunidad puertorriqueña en plena época navideña y sin traducir el documento al español. "(El inglés) es un lenguaje que cientos de miles de puertorriqueños, cuyas vidas serán afectadas directamente por la tubería, no hablan ni leen", subrayó.

Transcripción del discurso:

Mr. Speaker, today I am sending a letter to Colonel Alfred A. Pantano, the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Jacksonville District who oversees, among other things, the permitting process for the construction of a massive gas pipeline that will cross the mountains in Puerto Rico. The 92-mile pipeline, which does not make any sense environmentally, economically, or ethically, is moving forward in part because Colonel Pantano's office issued a Draft Environmental Assessment that clearly favors the eventual issuance of the permit for the project.

I would like to read an excerpt from my letter.

[Quote] I was intensely angered, but sadly not entirely surprised, when I read the report issued by your office regarding the gasoducto or Via Verde gas pipeline project in Puerto Rico.

From the start, people in Puerto Rico have been telling me they that suspect all of the regulatory oversight is nothing more than show and that this project has been assured of passage because of insider, cozy relationships between the Army Corps Jacksonville staff and the very industry they are supposed to be overseeing and regulating.

Further, having sunk millions of dollars in this project already, the ruling party in Puerto Rico's very credibility is staked on this massive construction project going forward.

The Draft Environmental Assessment is so slanted and flawed that it adds more evidence to the growing view that there will be no meaningful oversight for this project and no meaningful input from the residents of Puerto Rico.

I believe your decision shows a complete disregard for compelling evidence demonstrating little need for the project. It shows disregard for the opinion of other federal agencies who have looked at this project. The decision disregards evidence of potential safety hazards to the Puerto Rican people. The woefully slanted decision also gives credence to the suggestion of impropriety in matters related to this project and to the inability of US Army Corps of Engineers to oversee the project.

I believe this process should begin again in an open and transparent manner, that the process that led to this decision should be fully investigated and any further efforts should be supervised by new leadership.

I ask for a U.S. Army Office of Inspector General investigation into the relationship between the government of Puerto Rico, the Army Corps' Jacksonville office, and the power company and its contractors

Your boss, President Obama, stated "the cozy relationship between the regulators and the industry they regulate must come to an end."

I strongly support the President and agree with him completely. However, my misgivings about the pipeline project multiplied substantially when the project was abruptly removed from Army Corps' office in Puerto Rico and transferred to office in Jacksonville.

There is clearly a cozy relationship between current Jacksonville staff and former Jacksonville staff who now supervise or work for BCPeabody, the Florida-based consulting company hired by the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority, PREPA, to lobby, or "provide technical assistance," for the project.

The result? The Army Corps appears to have adopted all of PREPA's arguments for the project wholesale:

These include ignoring the advice of federal agencies -- who do not seem to have any cozy connections to the moneyed interests behind the pipeline -- including the warnings of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency that stated that [quote] "Based on all the issues previously described, EPA continues to recommend that the permit for the Via Verde project not be granted until our concerns regarding protecting the wetlands and compensatory mitigation are fully addressed." [end quote]

Mr. Speaker, I go on in my letter to list the clear evidence that was either ignored or discounted by the Army Corps that gives the very uneasy feeling that there is something fishy in Jacksonville when it comes to this project in Puerto Rico.

Finally, I point out that it is an insult to the Puerto Rican people to have released the Army Corps' report in the manner it was released. The report is exclusively in English, whereas the common language in Puerto Rico is Spanish and English is a language that hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans - whose lives will be directly affected by the pipeline -- do not speak or read.

[Quote] It is also personally insulting that the 30 day comment period occurs during the holiday season when the residents of Puerto Rico are especially focused on their families and when the U.S. Congress is in recess.

The people of Puerto Rico, including those who live humbly in the mountains and those who have derived their livelihoods from the land, deserve a government that protects their interests. They deserve to know that when their safety and way of life are threatened, the government will help protect them.

This case reveals the opposite. It reveals a government agency that ignores the warnings of other agencies and a wealth of facts regarding safety concerns and environmental impact. It reveals a government agency that responds more to well-connected lobbyists than advocates for the people of Puerto Rico. It reveals a government agency that is not doing the job it is mandated to do. [end quote]

Thank you.


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