The Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) and journalist Omar Alfonso, editor of regional newspaper La Perla del Sur, on Tuesday filed a Mandamus on the constitutional right of access to public information to petition documents related to the renegotiation of the contract between coal ash company AES and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).
In October 2021, in coordination with Omar Alfonso, the CPI asked PREPA for the proposal for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was sent by Jesús Bolinaga, president of AES, to former PREPA Governing Board Chair, Ralph Kriel Rivera. This MOU was delivered to the CPI in October.
But the document refers to two letters with complementary information dated Aug. 11 and 25, 2021, which were not provided by PREPA. Back in October, the CPI and Omar Alfonso requested a copy of the letters from PREPA and the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau, but they were not provided despite multiple follow-up efforts.
The legal petition submitted on Tuesday names Josué Colón, executive director of the PREPA and Fernando Gil Enseñat, chairman of PREPA’s Governing Board, as well as Edison Avilés Deliz, president of the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau, as the officials who must provide the requested documents.
Journalist Omar Alfonso, who since 2015 has investigated the impact of AES coal ash on the communities and the environment of the southern region, said, “it’s inconceivable that an agreement of this magnitude is carried out behind our backs and without a transparent discussion. The full participation of those who suffer the direct consequences of environmental pollution is sabotaged when information is not available.”
“Access to public information is still a great challenge for people and for the press, and the CPI is going to exhaust all available remedies to ensure that public officials recognize and respect this fundamental right in a country that aspires to be democratic,” said Carla Minet, director of the CPI.
The plaintiffs are represented in this case by the Legal Clinic of the Interamerican University Law School and their attorneys Luis José Torres Asencio and Steven Lausell Recurt.