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DHS approves Jones Act waiver to allow diesel to Puerto Rico amid power outages

Hurricane Fiona made landfall in southwestern Puerto Rico on Sept. 18 with maximum sustained winds of 85 miles, according to the US National Hurricane Center. Photo by Thais Llorca/EPA-EFE
Hurricane Fiona made landfall in southwestern Puerto Rico on Sept. 18 with maximum sustained winds of 85 miles, according to the US National Hurricane Center. Photo by Thais Llorca/EPA-EFE

Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The Biden administration has approved Puerto Rico's request to waive certain regulations that will allow a private tanker to unload its shipment of fuel on the Caribbean island where hundreds of thousands of people were still without power following last week's devastating hurricane.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced in a statement Wednesday that he has approved a temporary waiver of the Jones Act, which is also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, that requires all maritime cargo transported between U.S. ports to be conducted by U.S. flagged vessels.

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By issuing the waiver, Majorkas is permitting a foreign-flagged ship loaded with diesel and anchored off the coast of Puerto Rico for days to offload its cargo on the island.

"I have approved a temporary and targeted Jones Act waiver to ensure that the people of Puerto Rice have sufficient diesel to run generators needed for electricity and the functioning critical facilities as they recover from Hurricane Fiona," he said.

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Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 18, knocking out power to the entire island of more than 3 million people.

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The island's electricity company LUMA said that it has restored power to 1.1 million of its customers, representing about 80% of its total customer base, by 8 p.m. Wednesday. This leaves about 259,000 customers in the dark as of early Thursday, according to poweroutage.us.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi had called on the Biden administration in a letter Monday to issue the Jones Act waiver as the demand for diesel has increased significantly following Fiona and amid the mass power outage.

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He said in the letter that they needed the waiver "to ensure that we have sufficient supplies of fuels such as diesel, so that the electric power service is not compromised in any critical facility, while companies can also guarantee the continuity of their services."

On Wednesday, Pierluisi tweeted his thanks to the Biden administration for the wavier and "their continued support" of Puerto Rico.

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