This monstrous hurricane season has been responsible for disastrous flooding and damage in the U.S. states of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, as well as several Caribbean islands. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma plowed through and left many people in need of assistance and in many instances, the need for basic shelter.
The latest hurricane to pummel the Atlantic and Caribbean seas was Maria, which quickly escalated to a Category 5 storm and recently ravaged the island and U.S. territory of Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane. Upon learning of the devastation in Puerto Rico, several members of Congress made a request on Tuesday that the Trump administration waive the Jones Act, which limits shipping between coasts to U.S. flagged vessels.
Many of Puerto Rico’s ports are damaged, making it very difficult to ship much-needed supplies and fuel. Under the circumstances of brutal storms, the government at times has waived the restrictions of the Jones Act, allowing for the use of cheaper, tax-free, and more readily available foreign flagged ships.
This isn’t a new idea and in fact, The Department of Homeland Security did just that after Harvey and Irma. Juan Declet-Barreto, an energy expert at the nonprofit group the Union of Concerned Scientists, said:
‘Our dependence on fossil fuel imports by sea is hampering the restoration of services.’
Decleto went on to say that the refusal to allow the waiver is “is raising fears on the island that they are going to be left behind in this disaster.”
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in a letter to the DHS urged them to rethink the decision. McCain wrote:
‘The Department of Homeland Security has been given the ability to waive the Jones Act to accommodate national security concerns, and has done so twice in the last month. These emergency waivers have been valuable to speed up recovery efforts in the impacted regions. However, I am very concerned by the Department’s decision not to waive the Jones Act for current relief efforts in Puerto Rico, which is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis following Hurricane Maria. It is unacceptable to force the people of Puerto Rico to pay at least twice as much for food, clean drinking water, supplies and infrastructure due to Jones Act requirements as they work to recover from this disaster. Now, more than ever, it is time to realize the devastating effect of this policy and implement a full repeal of this archaic and burdensome Act.’
According to Reuters, those who support the Jones Act, including shipbuilders, say it supports American jobs and makes shipping routes to Puerto Rico and other areas more reliable.
The United States is overflowing with money and resources and it is disheartening, to say the least, that our government cannot deliver much-needed supplies in a timely fashion to a U.S. territory. Thank you to Senator McCain, Representative Gary Palmer, and to other members of Congress who are working diligently on this issue.
Featured image by Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images