A coalition of advocacy groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and nine Puerto Rican community organizations, has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the District of Columbia’s U.S. District Court.
The lawsuit accuses FEMA of disregarding renewable energy sources while rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid with congressional funds, a move that makes the island less resilient to storms and vulnerable to widespread power outages.
The group alleges that FEMA is restoring outdated fossil fuel-powered systems without assessing potential environmental impacts.
The lawsuit seeks to challenge FEMA’s failure to consider alternative energy solutions like rooftop solar, storage, and other forms of distributed renewable energy for projects that provide electricity to communities at risk from Puerto Rico’s hurricane-damaged grid.
The group claims that FEMA’s actions violate federal law by failing to consider the environmental damage from rebuilding and relocating Puerto Rico’s polluting fossil fuel infrastructure, which could endanger clean air and water, and wildlife.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, which was filed after the Biden administration issued waivers of U.S. shipping rules to allow Puerto Rico to urgently receive deliveries of diesel and liquefied natural gas after a complete power outage following Hurricane Fiona.
Hurricane Maria, which caused the worst power blackout in U.S. history, had hit the territory five years earlier.
New York Attorney General Letitia James urged officials to investigate Puerto Rico’s energy situation and energy provider LUMA Energy in a letter last year. Despite the island’s grid being rebuilt with billions of dollars, residents continue to experience frequent outages and high electricity rates.
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Graholm, who is responsible for fixing Puerto Rico’s grid, said that this is a matter of life and death. FEMA did not respond to a request for comment at the time of writing.