The IHRC has investigated the human rights abuses arising out of the environmental injustices imposed on communities in the southern municipalities of Puerto Rico that represent violations of international human rights, and specifically of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”). Since 1994, Applied Energy Systems (“AES”), a private American energy company, has been responsible for continued coal ash contamination of the southern coastal region of Puerto Rico.[i] AES coal-fired power plants in Puerto Rico have released toxic amounts of coal ash into the air and water, negatively impacting air quality and drinking water for residents in this area.[ii] Further, the use of coal ash in Agremax,[iii] a construction material, and the unsuitable disposal methods of coal ash used by AES has led to further airborne pollution and water contamination. The Puerto Rican government has acquiesced and supported AES permitting the continuous and persistent environmental harm and related health risks affecting Puerto Ricans.[iv]Members of the affected communities and the public have not been informed of the environmental harm affecting them and of the potential and probable health risks posed by such environmental harm. Affected communities have not been consulted throughout the process and have been unable to provide their free, prior and informed consent. Additionally, affected communities and the public have had their rights to expression, information and participation suppressed by the government when expressing their opposition to the egregious and continuous environmental harm.
[iii] Leaching Behavior of “AGREMAX” Collected from a Coal-Fired Power Plant in Puerto Rico, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, https://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_record_report.cfm?dirEntryId=307594 (last visited May 3, 2018) (“Agremax as a “a partially solidified mixture of coal combustion fly ash and bottom ash” used in construction materials.”).
[iv] The U.N. Human Rights Committee has recognized that United States has the obligation to protect the rights of the people of Puerto Rico as a territory of the United States. U.N. Human Rights Comm., Concluding Observations on the Fourth Periodic Report of the United States of America, ¶ 7, U.N.Doc. CCPR/C/USA/CO/4 (Apr. 23, 2014).
Dávila-Ruhaak, Sarah, "Submission to The U.N. Human Rights Committee in Relation to the List of Issues of the United States Concerning the Unsafe Dumping and Mismanagement of Coal Ash in Puerto Rico" (2019). Center and Clinic White Papers. 18.