Civil disobedience in Puerto Rico

Mar 17, 2010

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“Wind farm opponents plan civil disobedience campaign”

—by Reinaldo Millán, Puerto Rico Daily Sun, 3/17/10

GUAYANILLA — The local mayor and members of the Coalition for the Ventanas Verraco Dry Forest said Tuesday if the government continues with its plans to establish a wind farm on the coast of Guayanilla that they would have no other option but to begin a civil disobedience campaign.

During a press conference, Guayanilla Mayor Edgardo Arlequín Vélez and about 30 environmental activists reaffirmed their opposition to the Windmar Project, which gained Planning Board approval last week.

“We are not going to allow our people to be trampled in this way, because [the project] ignores the feelings of the community, the scientific community, the historical experience in other countries and is based on incorrect information,” said coalition spokesman José Francisco Sáez Cintrón, adding that the group supports renewable energy projects, but not wind farms in this locale, which, the group says, would threaten endangered birds.

Last week the government approved a plan to build 25 wind turbines capable of generating electricity for 20,000 households. Planning Board President Héctor Morales said the $80 million wind farm will be built by the Puerto Rico-based Windmar Renewable Energy, Inc. and is designed to produce an estimated 120,000 kilowatts a year.

The turbines will be erected on a 45-acre parcel of dry forest in Guayanilla. Morales said his agency had crafted a balance between sustainable development and conservation of natural resources, saying 83 percent of the developer’s 290-acre property will be set aside for conservation.

But environmental activists oppose the project, arguing that several endangered bird species in the adjacent forest will lose habitat. The land abuts the Guanica State Forest, where endangered nightjars and other creatures breed and nest.

“When the government doesn’t assume its ministerial duties to defend, protect and safeguard the people’s interests and patrimony, then the people must defend themselves,” said coalition member José Manuel Díaz Pérez.

Mayor Vélez said he would join the civil disobedience campaign and called for a meeting with the Planning Board after he consults with municipal attorneys on the available legal options.

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