The Biden administration said Wednesday it would waive a 100-year-old law designed to protect the US shipbuilding industry to allow a foreign-registered ship to deliver 300,000 barrels of diesel to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Local leaders had been putting pressure on Washington when a BP tanker was detained for days off the island amid legal wrangling.
The result was mounting anger at the way the 1920 Jones Act prevented desperately needed fuel from reaching Puerto Rico and shattered its power grid.
‘In response to the urgent and immediate needs of the Puerto Rican people in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona, I have approved a temporary and specific waiver from the Jones Act to ensure that the Puerto Rican people have enough diesel to run the generators needed for electricity and to run facilities. criticism as they recover from Hurricane Fiona,’ Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said Wednesday afternoon.
“The decision to approve the waiver was made in consultation with the Departments of Transportation, Energy and Defense to assess the rationale for the waiver request and was based on input from the Governor of Puerto Rico and others on the ground who support the efforts of Recovery”.
The storm downed hundreds of power lines and left hundreds of thousands of residents without power last week.
In response, a ship carrying 300,000 barrels of diesel left Texas City and was scheduled to dock in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, on Sunday night.
But the Marshall Islands-flagged ship broke the Jones Act, which requires that goods shipped between US ports be transported on US-flagged ships.
He left the ship, the GH Parks, delayed for days despite mounting calls from Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi, attorneys and members of Congress.
Eight lawmakers, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, wrote an open letter to the Sec. of Homeland Security. Alejandro Mayorkas already last week requesting the waiver.
Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi, advocates and members of Congress had been pushing for days for the Biden administration to grant a waiver.
After the storm downed hundreds of power lines and left hundreds of thousands of residents without power, a ship carrying 300,000 barrels of much-needed diesel fuel left the Texas city and was scheduled to dock in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico on Sunday. in the evening.
Due to a 100-year law known as the Jones Act, the ship was left idle in the waters off the storm-ravaged island.
When asked about giving up the law Tuesday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the White House is “doing everything it can” to support Puerto Rico and is still “closely evaluating” waiver requests. .
“When it comes to a specific situation, we are committed to doing everything we can within our legal authority to support Puerto Rico,” he said. “The Biden administration is closely evaluating any waiver request that comes in, including this one in particular.”
The Jones Act requires that all goods shipped between US ports be transported by ships built and operated by Americans. The law has union support and fits with President Biden’s ‘Made in America’ agenda, but now Puerto Ricans are demanding that the Biden administration issue a waiver for the ship, which flies under the Marshallese flag. .
Port Authority Executive Director Joel Piza Batiz confirmed that a Jones Act waiver request had been submitted to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He added that Puerto Rican officials were ready to provide any necessary information to DHS for the waiver.
The ship is not authorized to dock in Puerto Rico
Men ride their motorcycles through the flooded streets of Toa Baja, Puerto Rico last week
A satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows a submerged bridge in the Rio Grande de Arecibo after flooding caused by Hurricane Fiona, in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, on September 21, 2022.
A man rides a horse in a flooded street after the passage of Hurricane Fiona, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, on September 19, 2022.
As word of the holding ship began to spread, Senators Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Marco Rubio, R-Florida, added their voices to calls for a waiver.
“@WhiteHouse must immediately grant this Jones Act waiver and provide much needed relief to the people of Puerto Rico,” Lee wrote on Twitter.
A Biden administration official told the Washington Post that giving up the law requires an interagency process to determine the legality of doing so.
For one-time emergency requests like the BP ship, DHS aims to complete the review process within two days. Waiver requests must demonstrate that the items being shipped are necessary for national defense and cannot otherwise be obtained in the US.
The American Maritime Association, a coalition representing US-flagged ships and unions benefiting from the Jones Act, wrote to Mayorkas on Friday explaining why the law should not be dropped after Fiona.
The group argued that domestic ships were ready and available to help transport supplies to Puerto Rico and that giving up the Jones Act would support foreign carriers more than Puerto Rican ones.