Editor’s note: Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón has issued the following statement. She refers in part to a foreign-flag tanker and an improperly requested Jones Act waiver.
Expressions of the resident commissioner, Jenniffer González Colón
September 27, 2022 – Washington, D.C. – Since before the hurricane I have been in continuous briefings, multiple times a day, on the state of the federal response and recovery efforts on the island.
Fuel, in all its forms, is a priority issue for everyone. For both the federal and state governments, it is of primary importance to ensure that supplies are available to meet demand.
At each and every meeting, I have been assured by federal agencies, including the Department of Energy, FEMA and the Corps of Engineers that there is an adequate supply of fuel on the Island that is available to consumers and that subsequent delivery is planned of more fuel in the short, medium and long term.
As recently as today, FEMA held a conference call at 2 p.m. to members of Congress to offer an update on the agency’s efforts, reiterating again that there is “a considerable supply of fuel available on the Island.”
This matter of the ship comes to address the lack of inventory of a supplier, not of the industry in general and it is known to all that it sailed without first doing the proper paperwork with the federal government.
In the past few days, American-flagged ships from American ports and foreign-flagged ships from international ports have entered and will continue to arrive, as early as this week.
The vast majority of the fuel that Puerto Rico consumes comes from outside the United States, which is why it is transported on foreign-flagged ships from foreign ports. Therefore, the Jones Act does not apply and a waiver would not change the way fuel is transported at all.
I remain in communication with federal agencies, requesting viable actions and measures that the federal government can and should take as quickly as possible to help the people of Puerto Rico respond to and recover from Hurricane Fiona.
From the beginning, the process carried out by the supplier has been rushed and uncoordinated with the government. The state government understood that, despite the fact that there is no diesel supply crisis, steps should be taken to correct the defects in the transport and requested a waiver from the federal government to allow the ship to enter. My office has been in contact with both the state and federal governments to keep abreast of these procedures.
The process for applying for a Jones Act waiver requires consultation with several federal agencies, including Homeland Security, the Maritime Administration, the Department of Defense, and others. That process has already concluded and in the next few days, if not hours, the Department of Homeland Security will publish its determination.
The federal government is evaluating the waiver request, and will determine whether to grant it or not. Because of the time it takes to evaluate and grant a waiver like this.
As it has been since before Fiona made landfall on our island, my office will be aware of this and all federal matters concerning Puerto Rico.