DHS approves Jones Act waiver to guarantee diesel for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona


Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday approved a federal waiver that opens up the possibility of sending extra diesel to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona’s devastation last week.

The announcement of the passage of the waiver of the Jones Act came as the Biden administration came under increasing pressure to allow a British Petroleum vessel to enter one of Puerto Rico’s ports loaded with diesel.

The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, requires that all goods transported between US ports be carried on vessels built, owned and operated by Americans. But those boats are much more expensive to buy and operate than foreign ones, and they make almost everything in Puerto Rico more expensive.

DHS can grant a waiver when American vessels are unavailable to meet national defense requirements.

On Tuesday, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell said DHS was “actively” working on the approval process, but stressed that the request must meet legal requirements set by Congress.

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi asked the DHS secretary to personally intervene in the matter, and eight members of Congress, led by Democratic Representative Nydia Velazquez of New York, sent a letter asking Mayorkas to temporarily step aside. Republican senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah also called on the federal government to withdraw.

Mayorkas said in a statement Wednesday that DHS would accept a “temporary and targeted” waiver.

“In response to the urgent and immediate needs of the people of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Fiona, I have approved a temporary and targeted waiver of the Jones Act to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico have sufficient diesel to run generators necessary for electricity and the operation of critical facilities as they recover from Hurricane Fiona,” he said. his secretary

Puerto Rico has previously received a waiver from the disaster-related Jones Act, when then-President Donald Trump issued a waiver after Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017.