On CEMEX and Tire Burning in Ponce

    The recent issue of tire burning by CEMEX,a company dedicated to the manufacture of cement, and the local community has led to a direct clash between the community and said company.  CMEX began tire burning, which is currently being opposed by nearby residents in Ponce.  Evidence suggests that the immediate issue of the protest might be unwarranted.  It turns out that rubber tires have a caloric content similar to that of coal, and, according to EPA's representative Carl-Axel P. Soderberg , there actually should be a reduction of contaminants with the new process.  There are certainly too many tires in Puerto Rico, and it makes no sense shipping them elsewhere, ironically burning fossil fuels and further contaminating the environment.  If these facts are true, and we accept Soderberg's statements at face value (which seem to be completely reasonable), then the immediate reason for the protest is unwarranted. 

    However, what is more important to evaluate is whether EPA standards made for nations with vast territorial domains are appropriate to a small and highly populated island, as is the case with Puerto Rico.  Representatives of said company have stated that they 'comply with EPA standards', but at the same time, do not deny that over its 65 years of operation, 'tons' (or hundreds of pounds) of contaminants have been spewed into the immediate environment.   This immediately raises the question as to the quality of EPA rulings are strict enough to meet the realities of our local needs--and suggests a much more serious clash between commonwealth and federal authorities.  Puerto Rico should have the right to elevate standards in cases for which it is warranted, and should not be blindly tied to federal regulation.  There is the very real possibility that Republican led administrations as George Bush's lower existing federal criteria when in power.  It is well known that these administrative tactics were utilized during Ronald Reagan's 'patriotic' Republican Administration when James Watt was placed as head of EPA. 

    As a commonwealth, it would seem that Puerto Rico should have that constitutional right, given that all states have the duty to defend the interests of their citizens. The United States clearly does so when its nationals travel abroad.  This is, in fact, one of the reasons why the US has  embassies all over the world: they serve as legitimate havens of protection when other foreign nations, be it their citizens or governments, resort to an unfair and arbitrary use of power.  Similarly, the state of Puerto Rico has the moral responsibility to protect its citizens within its domain when foreigners, individuals or companies, encroach upon the local well-being, particularly the case when powerful foreign companies use their power in an arbitrary manner that is detrimental to the local interest.  (Do note that the term 'foreinger' is being applied to any non-Puerto Rican entity, be it from the United States, Mexico, etc.)  While in the first case protection is offered to nationals outside the nation, in the second case protection is offered to nationals within their own nation.  We need not note the irony that the second protection naturally serves as the fundamental de-jure basis for the first.

    The local state (Puerto Rico) in this sense should have a team of scientists available (biologists, chemists, etc) constantly monitoring the state of critical areas to insure that long term damage is not being incurred by companies operating within its borders--as should every nation in the world, particularly China.  If Texas has is "Mexico border patrol", Puerto Rico should then have its "Environmental border patrol".  This, like the Texas case, is not intended to 'harass' foreigners within its borders, but merely to insure that they are complying with the accepted standards that already exist in the books.  As the Texas case, it would appear that the mechanism would serve to protect foreigner from self-inflicted injury: all too many mexicans die in their crossing over the scorching desert.  

    We should note that such a measure would, incidentally, also help stimulate the growth of our local scientific community by providing a ready measure of internal employment.  Indirectly, this would (hopefully) stimulate its long term economic growth by encouraging the entry of students into science-technology related fields, thereby pushing these into the 'critical mass' necessary for self-sustained economic growth.

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