(Reuters) – Advocacy groups are suing the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), saying it is incorrectly ignoring renewable energy sources while using billions of dollars in congressional funding to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid.
The Center for Biological Diversity and nine Puerto Rican community groups say FEMA is making Puerto Rico less resilient to storms and more likely to experience widespread power outages by restoring its older fossil fuel-powered systems without assessing potential environmental impacts.
In a news release, the alliance of advocacy groups said the lawsuit “challenges FEMA’s failure to consider rooftop solar, storage and other forms of distributed renewable energy for projects intended to provide electricity to communities at risk from Puerto Rico’s hurricane-battered grid.”
The group says “FEMA violated federal law by failing to consider the environmental harm from rebuilding and relocating Puerto Rico’s polluting fossil fuel infrastructure, including jeopardizing clean air and water, and endangered species.”
FEMA did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside business hours.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia and also names the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a defendant.
The Biden administration last year issued waivers of U.S. shipping rules to allow Puerto Rico to urgently receive deliveries of diesel and liquefied after a complete power outage in the wake of Hurricane Fiona.
The storm came five years after the U.S. territory was devastated by Hurricane Maria, which triggered the worst power blackout in U.S. history.
In a letter last year, New York Attorney General Letitia James urged authorities to investigate the energy situation in Puerto Rico, and the energy provider LUMA Energy, noting that despite billions of dollars spent to rebuild the island’s grid, residents continue to endure frequent outages and high electrical rates.
“This a question of life and death in real terms, in real time,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Graholm, President Joe Biden’s point person on fixing the island’s grid, told Reuters last month.