Governor leads industry outreach on Vía Verde, heralds ‘new energy era’
“Puerto Ricans don’t have time to fear progress, and with Vía Verde we will enter a new energy era that strengthens the competitiveness of our economy and improves the quality of life of our people,” Fortuño said, calling the high price of energy the main obstacle to the island’s economic and social development.
The forum, held at the Engineers & Surveyors Association, was aimed at providing an update on the project, as well as in-depth technical discussions to local construction industry professionals. Other top officials participating in the event included Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) Executive Director Miguel Cordero, and Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Regional Director Wayne T. Lemoi.
“Pipelines are the veins and arteries of the U.S. That’s the way it is,” Lemoi said, pointing to the nearly 2.5 million miles of natural gas pipelines running across the country.
He said his federal agency was working with the local Public Service Commission to oversee the construction and operation of the proposed pipeline.
“We are the safest form of transportation in the U.S.,” Lemoi added, saying highway and airplane accidents occur far more frequently than natural gas pipeline accidents.
Dozens of protesters held a demonstration outside the facility, and Engineers & Surveyors Association President Miguel A. Torres Díaz denounced acts of vandalism at the Hato Rey facility which involved painting graffiti with slogans opposing the project.
“To be able to form an opinion you need to know the facts; you need to listen to the details and technical aspects of the project,” Torres Díaz said, adding that the event was sponsored by the government as an industry outreach effort. “We will continue to hold this type of activity for this and other projects.”
The Engineers & Surveyors Association has backed the use of natural gas as a transition to other types of energy but has expressed concerns about some aspects of Vía Verde.
Torres Díaz said he had complete confidence in the ability of Puerto Rican engineers and construction professionals to build a complex project like Vía Verde and said that many of the Engineers & Surveyor Association’s concerns were being addressed by design and other modifications.
The Vía Verde project has cleared local regulatory hurdles and won provisional endorsement from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but remains under review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has chief jurisdiction and the final say over whether such projects can be built.