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New Environmental Policy in PR

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  • New Environmental Policy in PR

    DTOP announces new environmental public policy

    By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News




    Jose Izquierdo,
    secretary of the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP by its Spanish acronym) announced Thursday a new environmental public policy for the development of transportation infrastructure on the island.

    Izquierdo explained that the new policy is intended to establish the government’s commitment to protecting environmental and natural resources by avoiding the development of transportation projects in green areas.

    “We won’t promote the construction of new transportation infrastructure in green areas that are located within the urban sector, but rather give priority to construction in areas where there is already buildings whose lifespan has expired,” Izquierdo said.

    However, Highways and Transportation Authority Executive Director Fernando Fagundo noted that such projects may still be developed in green areas if the government rules that the need for transportation is greater than the desire to protect the environment.

    Fagundo mentioned the Trujillo Alto Highway as an example. This particular project encountered great opposition from environmentalist groups, which condemned the government’s decision to cut down numerous trees to build two overpasses in the area.

    The new policy proposes the creation of a so-called compliance board that will guarantee that the agency adheres to the newly established parameters. This group of advisers will be giving its opinion of certain aspects that should be avoided or included during the designing stages of a project, so that once the design is submitted to the appropriate agencies for approval, it will already include all those comments.

    Izquierdo said the policy will also change the way the projects are conducted. For example, instead of designing a project and preparing a preliminary study of the environmental viability of the plan prior to public hearings, the community will be involved in the process from its early stages. The idea is to have the community’s opinion of the project prior to the completion of the environmental document required by law.

    “This should make for a more solid and agile environmental process,” Izquierdo said.

    The DTOP chief denied that this new way of working would slow down project developments by adding more bureaucracy.

    “Every time a project is halted, just as happened in the case of Trujillo Alto, it costs a lot of money. And whose money is that? It’s from the people of Puerto Rico,” Izquierdo said.

    He explained that by including the community in the early stages of a project design, the agency is able to establish a one-on-one rapport allowing citizens to better understand the pros and cons of the project.

    Izquierdo said this kind of dialogue isn’t possible during public hearings, where community members are only allowed to state their point of view without the possibility of having someone from the department to clear their doubts. Fagundo added that the new board won’t be created until they receive feedback from the public’s opinion of the policy presented Thursday.

    Izquierdo said the document will be available to the public at the agency’s headquarters in Santurce as well as online at http://www.dtop.gov.pr for the next 30 days. For more information, dial 787-723-3245.
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