Puerto Rico seeks to export coal ash, bans it from landfills
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s governor on Tuesday signed a law that bans coal ash from being deposited in landfills across the U.S. territory, though critics complained the measure does not go far enough to protect people’s health.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello said coal ash can only be used for commercial purposes if it meets local and federal environmental laws. He also announced the creation of a $10 million company that would convert coal ash into construction material for exportation. The company is expected to start operating in a year.
“The policy of this administration is to seek commercial alternatives to create jobs and to export the ash generated on the island,” Rossello said.
Applied Energy Systems, a company that uses mineral coal to generate power for Puerto Rico, had been depositing ash in the island’s southern region. The practice sparked multiple protests, including an ongoing one that is barring trucks carrying coal ash from entering a landfill in the southern coastal town of Penuelas.
A message left with a company official was not immediately returned.
Critics say the law does not go far enough because it does not prohibit the use of coal ash for commercial purposes, nor the deposit of other types of ash in landfills.
“This law is one step forward and two steps back,” biologist Miguel Canals said in a phone interview.
Applied Energy Systems said in a recent statement that the ashes are not toxic and that they have long been used in the U.S. mainland and Europe to build dams, roads and running tracks, among other things.