Senior EPA Officials Speak at Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Forum on Strengthening Puerto Rico Recovery Efforts
ORLANDO, Fla. (September 1, 2020) –Yesterday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and White House senior officials participated in a forum hosted by the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Latino Leadership to discuss the Trump Administration’s ongoing efforts to help Puerto Rico recover from natural disasters dating back to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and recent earthquakes. EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento, EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary Walker and EPA Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez were joined by The White House’s Special Representative for Puerto Rico Disaster Recovery, Rear Admiral Peter Brown, and staff from Senator Marco Rubio’s, Congresswoman Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon’s, and Florida Representative Rene Plasencia’s offices. The forum, held at Azalea Park United Methodist Church in Orlando, included discussion of successful partnerships and remaining challenges as Puerto Rico’s recovery continues to move forward.
“EPA is identifying areas the agency can help improve upon and forge partnerships to achieve sustainable disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Yesterday’s forum with Latino leaders in Florida was a way to expand those efforts beyond the boundaries of Puerto Rico,” said Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento. “EPA is committed to finding creative and proactive solutions, including by soliciting input from people in other states that have a vested interest in the success of Puerto Rico and can help support positive outcomes for the environment and people of Puerto Rico.”
“The EPA has been a tremendous partner in the recovery of Puerto Rico from a devastating series of disasters. They are one of over a dozen federal departments and agencies that are delivering nearly 50 Billion dollars of federal funds for recovery of the infrastructure, economy, environment, and people of Puerto Rico,” said Rear Admiral Peter Brown. “Their work in improving drinking water systems, wastewater treatment, air quality, and solid waste management is great example of the Trump Administration's commitment to the recovery and long-term sustainability of Puerto Rico.”
“This engagement builds off of our trip a few weeks ago to Puerto Rico where we all met with the government of Puerto Rico, members of the federal family, local governments, and the non-profit and business communities to continue our respectful partnership working to help aid disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico,” said Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “I was honored to bring our successes and challenges to the growing Latino population in Florida through yesterday’s forum with the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Latino leaders in the state. Sharing with and bringing in Latino partners from Florida will energize and strengthen our recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. We deepened partnerships to facilitate positive change in Puerto Rico while respecting local decision-making.”
“Earlier this month I had an opportunity to tour and see first-hand some of the successes achieved and challenges that remain in the sustainable disaster recovery of Puerto Rico,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “Yesterday’s forum reinforces and adds to what we are learning about the ways our agency can best support local leaders on the ground in building a more resilient Puerto Rico.”
“I’d like to thank Associate Deputy Administrator Benevento, Regional Administrators López and Walker, and Rear Admiral Brown for their commitment to Puerto Rico’s long-term recovery that is also so closely tied to its economic future. EPA has been an invaluable partner, from accommodating our needs regarding debris disposal, power generation, and air and water quality during the recent emergencies, to supporting the future resilient recovery through the Brownfields program and the Circuit Riders training and technology,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (PR). “Having a resilient Waste Management infrastructure and strategy will also better position Puerto Rico to become a national hub for manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies. I am proud to have had these Administration officials witness firsthand the needs and capabilities on the Island during their visit two weeks ago, and I look forward to our continued partnership in revitalizing Puerto Rico.”
Figure 1: Meeting delegation including Rear Admiral Peter Brown, Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento, Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez, Region 4 Administrator Mary Walker, staff from Senator Rubio Marco Rubio’s, Congresswoman Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon’s, and Florida Representative Rene Plasencia’s offices and other officials.
U.S. efforts in Puerto Rico are focused on fostering collaboration between senior U.S. officials, the Puerto Rico government, municipalities, the business community, and non-profit and community organizations to tackle challenges remaining in Puerto Rico’s continued recovery. This includes ways to improve environmental infrastructure in Puerto Rico and finding ways to pool resources for resilient environmental programs.
To learn more about EPA’s work in Puerto Rico visit https://www.epa.gov/pr