Fortuño counters García Padilla jabs
“It’s interesting that he who has not explained what he did on his publicly funded trip to the Middle East is asking us to explain government expenditures on a major public policy,” Fortuño said. “He also has some explaining to do on his taxes”
García Padilla on Wednesday characterized the proposed Vía Verde natural gas pipeline as the “worst misuse of public funds” in the history of Puerto Rico.
He said spending on the planning and permitting stage alone has reached nearly $100 million on the long-delayed project.
The PDP gubernatorial candidate charged that the project was simply aimed at “lining the pockets of Fortuño’s friends” through lucrative contracts on the project.
García Padilla, a freshman senator, called on the administration to make public all documents related to Vía Verde for evaluation by “independent entities including Casa Pueblo and the Puerto Rico Bar Association that are outside of partisan political interests.”
Fortuño said the project and the expenditures were necessary.
“We need to move away from imported oil to natural gas and other alternative energy sources,” the governor said. “Vía Verde is much more than a pipeline. It will start paying dividends this April when Costa Sur starts burning natural gas.”
The governor was referring to the Costa Sur power plant, the first of four plants, slated to be converted to natural gas via the project. He also argued that the project to feed the Aguirre power plant natural gas via and offshore barge system is also part of the “Vía Verde system.” That project could come online in a year and a half.
He reiterated that new federal environmental regulations will force Prepa to convert its plants to natural gas or spend billions on new anti-pollution equipment on its oil-fired plants.
“For our north coast plants, the only alternative at the moment is the pipeline,” the governor said. “But because of all this noise surrounding the issue I ordered the Prepa board to go back and reconfirm if it is the cheapest and safest alternative.”
Despite growing doubts about the project, which has been mired in a federal permitting process for more than a year, Fortuño reiterated a final decision would not be made until next month.
He said the alternatives being explored are an offshore delivery system, the proposed Vía Verde pipeline or a combination of the two, with only a portion of the pipeline getting built.
“We are working in a very tight timeframe,” the governor said.
The governor reiterated that García Padilla had some “very serious questions” to answer regarding a taxpayer-paid, $10,000 first-class trip to Paris, Switzerland, Cairo and Dubai in 2006 when he was a member of the Cabinet of former Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá.
The governor also said that García Padilla should answer question regarding his income taxes. New Progressive Party officials have seized on that fact that García Padilla and his wife filed separate tax returns for 2001, when she claimed her parents as dependents. They claim the move was intended to dodge taxes.