The Department of Homeland Security’s choice to suspend the Jones Act – which generally only allows US-flagged vessels to carry ocean cargo between US ports – will allow diesel to be added to Puerto Rico, days after the territory was been hit by Hurricane Fiona.
Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi thanked the Biden administration for the waiver in a tweet wednesday.
He was among several lawmakers, activists and others who had previously lobbied administration to waive the Jones Act.
The governor requested a waiver on Monday for a private supplier waiting to unload fuel in Puerto Rico; a BP spokesperson confirmed that the company had submitted an exemption request for a vessel carrying diesel on September 20.
“We are grateful to the Biden administration for taking this action and will deliver the barrels to Puerto Rico as quickly and safely as possible,” a BP spokesperson said Wednesday.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez (DN.Y.), who sent a letter this week asking for the waiver along with seven other lawmakers, said she welcomes Mayorkas’ decision.
“This is a life or death situation,” Velázquez said in a tweet, adding, “I encourage the administration to take further steps to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico can fully recover from the… ‘Hurricane Fiona’.
Calls to drop the act following the hurricane have come from both sides of the aisle: GOP Sens. Marco Rubio (Florida) and Mike Lee (Utah) have previously expressed support for such a waiver.
Hurricane Fiona caused widespread flooding and severe power outages when it hit Puerto Rico last week. At least two people have died, authorities say – one in Puerto Rico and one in the Dominican Republic.
The Department of Homeland Security has waived the Jones Act before during other national disasters, including when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017.
Because Puerto Rico is an island, the Jones Act can cause the price of consumer goods to be higher than in other regions because almost everything must be imported, POLITICO previously reported.
Unions have broadly backed the rule because it protects U.S. shipbuilding and maritime industries.
Shayna Greene and Gloria Gonzalez contributed to this report.