Wednesday, December 7, 2016,
Santo Domingo, D.N.
In an international video conference and panel of experts on the conversion to natural gas of Punta Catalina that was held this afternoon in the Pedro Mir Library of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD), it was denounced that the Dominican government paid , in the middle of this year, 37 million dollars to 41 people who were affected by the coal ashes deposited in Arroyo Barril, between the years 2003 and 2004.
The president of the Institute of Lawyers for the Protection of the Environment (INSAPROMA), Euren Cuevas, one of the members of the expert panel of the event, explained that the Dominican government paid that sum of money as a result of the agreement that AES, the people who sued it for the damages they suffered as a result of coal ash (rockash) dumped in Arroyo Barril.
He said that although the responsible for the damages is AES, however by the agreement signed by that company and the Dominican government when the Dominican State was compensated with 6 million dollars for illegally bringing these wastes to the country in 2007, it was established that in case of other demands the country would assume them.
He said last year a judge in Delaware, USA, announced that the AES company and the lawyers representing the residents of Arroyo Barril, Samaná, had reached an agreement so that the judicial process would not proceed.
He said that the agreement announced in Delaware was signed in April and the payment contemplated in this agreement was materialized last August in absolute secrecy.
The president of INSAPROMA, Euren Cuevas emphasized that these facts demonstrate the highly polluting character of the ashes of coal plants. “As a contaminant and a toxic substance, the Dominican State received a compensation of $6 million in 2007 and now, in 2016, for the same cause, the Dominican State itself paid $37 million to people whose health were affected from these ashes”.
He pointed out that the coal ash produced by Punta Catalina plants is identical to those deposited in Arroyo Barril and Manzanillo in 2003 and 2004, with the great difference that Punta Catalina will produce in a single year four times the amount of ash that had been deposited in these two communities.
Between Arroyo Barril and Manzanillo, 54 thousand tons of coal ash or rockash were deposited, while Punta Catalina will produce 174 thousand tons of ashes and 14 thousand tons of slag each year.
“If this coal ash seriously damaged the health of people in Arroyo Barril and these damages were tried before a court in the USA, the same will occur in the province of Peravia, but multiplied by a lot more” he said.
He asserted that the environmental impact study of Punta Catalina that rests in the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources does not contemplate a management plan for these ashes that will be deposited within a short distance of the communities of Catalina, of Nizao and of Paya, impacting directly more than 25 thousand people.
“The history of these demands for the ashes of Arroyo Barril and Manzanillo should be enough to persuade the authorities to convert the Punta Catalina coal plants to natural gas that does not produce ashes or other unique contamination inherent to the combustion of Coal” he said.
At the event, the US scientist Mark Chernaik summarized the technical and economic feasibility study of the natural gas conversion at Punta Catalina under his direction by the Global Environmental Law Alliance, ELAW.
Also other commentators were the electromechanical engineer Raúl Cabrera, public health expert Carlos Sánchez and environmental law lawyer Euren Cuevas.
In his speech, the engineer Raúl Cabrera confirmed that there is no problem to convert coal plants to natural gas. He based his assertion on his experience in adapting ITABO’s coal plants to work with oil.
He assured that the maintenance of natural gas plants is much cheaper than coal-fired plants.
Dr. Carlos Sánchez confirmed with medical details the health impacts of mineral coal pollution, especially in the lower respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems.
He indicated that this damage will result in a large number of premature deaths, mainly in infants and elderly people in the Peravia province.
The audience crowded the Video Transfer Hall B of the Pedro Mir Library. Attending were; political leaders, deputies, academics, businessmen of the electric sector and leaders of environmental organizations.