Gasoducto pipeline in Puerto Rico a horror story, congressman says

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Bad music and vampires are all that’s missing from this “horror story.”

So says Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), who spoke on the House of Representatives floor on Wednesday to once again raise concerns regarding the creation of the Gasoducto pipeline in Puerto Rico, this time accusing the Army Corps of Engineers of saving the project from behind closed doors.

Luis Gutiérrez march against Pipline

Congressman Luis Gutiérrez marching with hundreds of people who joined the “National March: Puerto Rico stands firm against the Pipeline” that took place on Sunday 19 February, 2012, in the city of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. (Photo/ GlobalVoices)

“It’s a pipeline the people of Puerto Rico don’t want, that experts say Puerto Rico doesn’t need and environmentalists have testified will destroy the natural beauty of thousands of acres on the island,” Gutierrez said.

For months, the congressman, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, has spoken out against the Gasoducto pipeline project that has an estimated cost of $350 million and that the Puerto Rican government calls “Vía Verde,” meaning “Green Way.” This energy project, which consists of the construction of a natural gas pipeline, has been a source of controversy and criticism since it was announced.

“The people of Puerto Rico are stuck in their very own horror movie,” Gutierrez said. “One that just won’t end.”

Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño

Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño. (Photo/ La Fortaleza)

The villains of the story this time are “a bunch of government insiders,” according to the congressman.

The governor of Puerto Rico, Republican Luis Fortuño, has said that the creation of this pipeline would be perfectly safe and cause energy prices to go down, while critics say that not only is it dangerous, but it lends itself to corruption.

Corruption surrounds Gasoducto pipeline in Puerto Rico

Casa Pueblo, an organization that promotes community self-management, has been one of the principal opponents of the Gasoducto pipeline. The organization says that the project poses a severe threat to the environment, because it would cut large amounts of vegetation, cause loss of biodiversity and facilitate forest fires among other things. Not to mention it would affect 51 communities and more than 22,000 families. The opposition says the Gasoducto pipeline has hidden costs that would make the project more expensive than it is said to be.

In addition, last year, the Associated Press reported that one of the largest contracts had gone to the company of a childhood friend of the governor’s– a company that had no experience building pipelines.

Protest against the pipline

Demonstrators march in 2011 in a protest against the proposed construction of a gas pipeline in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. (AP Photo Ricardo Alcaraz)

“[This story] has featured the government hiring a consulting team of former high-ranking Army Corps of Engineer employees based in Florida,” Gutierrez said. “The consultants magically convinced the Army Corps to take review of the project away from the local, San Juan, Puerto Rico office. And where did they move it to? Surprise! To Florida, right down the road from where the consultants live and used to work.”

The congressman proceeded to call the Fortuño administration a “regime,” and said that he doesn’t understand why this project — a project that has faced so much opposition from Puerto Ricans — is still “on life support,” and why an Assistant Secretary of the Army would ask the governor to keep the project alive a bit longer, as Fortuño said last week.

“It’s time to roll the credits and declare this monster dead once and for all,” Gutierrez said.

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