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Biden Administration Grants Waiver Allowing Diesel Shipment Into Puerto Rico -WSJ

Members of the Puerto Rico National Guard distribute water in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona.(Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters)

Paul Page and Andrew Restuccia

EnergiesNet.com 09 29 2022

The Biden administration on Wednesday approved a temporary waiver to Jones Act shipping restrictions to allow a tanker to deliver diesel fuel to Puerto Rico needed to run generators following the devastation caused by Hurricane Fiona.

The waiver was granted after criticism from Puerto Rico’s governor and other officials while the BP ship sat off the island’s coast, unable to unload 300,000 barrels of diesel fuel because of the law that limits domestic U.S. maritime shipments to U.S.-flagged vessels. The BP vessel, which picked up its fuel cargo in Texas, is flagged to the Marshall Islands.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement that the administration granted the “temporary and targeted” waiver to “ensure that the people of Puerto Rico have sufficient diesel to run generators needed for electricity and the functioning critical facilities as they recover from Hurricane Fiona.”

Several members of Congress, led by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D, N.Y.) had asked Mr. Mayorkas to grant a one-year waiver to expedite the flow of relief goods to Puerto Rico during its recovery from Fiona, which hit the island on Sept. 18.

BP said in a statement that it originally submitted a Jones Act waiver request to U.S. authorities on Sept. 20 to allow for a ship “to be diverted from its original destination into Puerto Rico to assist with hurricane relief efforts.”

“We are grateful to the Biden administration for taking this action and will deliver the barrels into Puerto Rico as quickly and safely as possible,” the company said.

The outcry over the tanker marks the latest tempest over a 1920 law requiring that ships in domestic operations be built in the U.S. and operated by U.S. companies with U.S. crews. The law is aimed at preserving U.S. maritime operations as a national security backup to the armed forces.

Critics say the law drives up shipping prices and creates a barrier to speedy services following natural disasters and other times of need.

The American Maritime Partnership, a coalition of U.S. shipping companies that support the Jones Act, said in a statement that the criticism over the BP ship was a “stunt by a foreign oil company” that was aimed at “triggering a public and political rush to judgment.”

President Trump granted a Jones Act waiver in 2017 in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that tore through Puerto Rico, leaving much of the island’s infrastructure in ruins.

Mr. Mayorkas said he made the decision to grant the waiver in consultation with the departments of Transportation, Energy, and Defense, and with input from Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.

Write to Paul Page at paul.page@wsj.com and Andrew Restuccia at andrew.restuccia@wsj.com

wsj.com 09 28 2022

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