Sierra Club Puerto Rico Visits Connecticut
The Puerto Rican community in Connecticut is a strong cultural and political force in the state. In 2016, Puerto Ricans accounted for 8.3% of the total population in Connecticut or 298,245 residents. That’s why we were thrilled to welcome the Chair of Sierra Club Puerto Rico, Jose Menendez, to speak to Connecticut residents on Saturday, October 12.
Sierra Club Connecticut’s Chair, Ann Gadwah, our Legislative Chair, Angel Serrano, and I traversed central Connecticut with Jose to share environmental news from the island with a focus on the challenges and opportunities for clean energy. In New Britain, Jose was interviewed on WPRX 1120AM radio with host Felix Viera and State Representative Geraldo Reyes. In Hartford, Jose spoke at a community forum, and we completed the tour in Middletown at the Climate Art Walk coordinated by CHISPA. Everywhere we went, Jose was met by Connecticut residents originally from Puerto Rico or those with relatives in Puerto Rico.
Photo: Angel Serrano, Ann Gadwah, Jose Menendez, Felix Viera, and State Rep. Geraldo Reyes at WPRX 1120AM radio in New Britain.
Photo Credit: Samantha Dynowski
Now is a critical time in Puerto Rico’s energy future. The island can rebuild with clean energy, and with an abundance of sunshine, the opportunity to install decentralized solar power across the island is great. However, many challenges stand in the way, not the least of which are the fossil fuel and nuclear industries and the control that Congress’s Natural Resources Committee has on the island’s future energy makeup.
Puerto Rican residents, left in the dark in the longest power outage in American history, want clean energy. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Sierra Club Puerto Rico distributed thousands of solar lights, and islanders saw firsthand the benefits of solar power. Sierra Club Puerto Rico is now part of a partnership that is working with communities to install rooftop solar power to ensure communities are ready for the next storm.
Puerto Rico’s only coal-fired power plant in Guayama continues to prove that dirty energy is not good for the island and the people. The plant has the dubious distinction of having the largest coal ash pile in the nation. The toxic ash pile grows every day that the plant operates. Contaminants blow into nearby neighborhoods and leach into the nearby waterways and the aquifer below the pile. Sierra Club Puerto Rico wants the coal plant shut down, the ash removed, the land and water cleaned, and the victims compensated.
If you have plans to visit Puerto Rico, Jose and the Puerto Rico Chapter lead many outings for tourists and residents alike. Find out more at Sierra Club Puerto Rico Chapter. If you don’t have plans, make some soon!
Samantha Dynowski is State Director, Sierra Club Connecticut.