Fri | Dec 2, 2022

Puerto Rico seeks US waiver as diesel dwindles after storm

Published:Tuesday | September 27, 2022 | 4:54 PM
A house lays in the mud after it was washed away by Hurricane Fiona at Villa Esperanza in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, September 21, 2022. Fiona left hundreds of people stranded across the island after smashing roads and bridges, with authorities still struggling to reach them four days after the storm smacked the US territory, causing historic flooding. (AP Photo/Alejandro Granadillo)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico's governor on Tuesday requested that the United States government waive a federal law to allow for more fuel shipments to the island amid concerns over a dwindling supply of diesel in the wake of Hurricane Fiona.

Governor Pedro Pierluisi warned that a shortage of fuel would affect public health, security and government functions in the US territory.

“Diesel supplies continue to decrease at a higher rate than previously anticipated, and shortages have been reported around the island,” he wrote.

The law that Pierluisi references is the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, best known as the Jones act, which requires that all goods transported to Puerto Rico be aboard a ship built in the US, owned and crewed by US citizens and flying the US flag.

The law has been waived during previous storms, but US President Joe Biden has not responded to Pierluisi's petition.

Pierluisi's letter comes as a British Petroleum ship with 300,000 barrels of diesel floats off Puerto Rico's southern coast since Sunday, awaiting entry.

A group of Puerto Rico legislators, including the president of the island's House of Representatives, were at a White House meeting with officials to urge a temporary waiver of the law amid concerns that elderly people could start dying like they did in the sweltering aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which struck as a Category 4 storm in September 2017.

“Every minute counts in an emergency,” said Puerto Rico Rep. Eddie Charbonier.

Local and federal officials have long called for a permanent repeal of the Jones Act, saying it has driven up prices and crippled Puerto Rico's economy.

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