Gov. Kenneth Mapp has called the Legislature into session for Tuesday, Nov. 21, to address proposed bills on recycling; anti-doping laws for horse racing, a loan authorization and two Coastal Zone Management permits for which he says immediate action is needed.
In a Government House news release, Mapp said he hopes to have the source separation and recycling legislation in effect by July 1. According to Mapp, by adopting the legislation, 80 percent of the trash that currently ends up in the territory’s landfills could be shipped out of the territory. He said that time is needed to educate the public and for the Waste Management Authority to put in place the necessary infrastructure for source separation and to get contracts in place for the exportation of recyclable items. Both landfills are under court orders to close and are nearly at capacity.
Responding to calls for the construction of a waste energy facility in the territory, Mapp said: “I restate my full opposition to waste energy facilities in the Virgin Islands. I have challenged everyone that has come before me … to identify … a plant that exists anywhere on U.S. soil that has been permitted by the (Environmental Protection Agency) EPA for waste energy.”
He said such a facility would require significantly more tonnage of waste than what is produced in the Virgin Islands.
Another bill asks the Legislature to appropriate $9 million for civil engineering projects in Frederiksted, including the Paul E. Joseph Stadium, the Terrance Martin Softball Field, the Crucian Christmas Festival Village and the infrastructure for adequate flood control and drainage to protect the project and persons and property within the town of Frederiksted.
The bill’s preface also says the government “needed to acquire additional real property at or near the project site,” but also mentions $480,000 previously appropriated for land purchase, leaving it unclear if land is meant to be purchased with some of the funds or not. The appropriation does not have specific amounts devoted to specific purposes.
Mapp wants to use $6 million that was supposed to be spent by Limetree Bay Terminals for bitumen storage tanks. When the territory approved an agreement with Limetree Bay Terminals to operate the former Hovensa refinery, Limetree Bay agreed to spend $6 million to either refurbish an old tank or build a new one that the territory could use to store bitumen. Limetree Bay Agreement officials said at the time the tank would allow the territory to make its own asphalt for roads at a much lower cost than purchasing it off-island. This would allow more road repairs for less money.
The introduction of Mapp’s proposal says the political instability in Venezuela has made it difficult to secure a contract to supply the bitumen. The administration instead has allowed Limetree Bay to pay the funds to the government and waived the requirement that Limetree Bay build a tank.
It also includes $2 million in remitted federal alcohol excise tax funds that a V.I. statute sets aside in a Community Facilities Trust account devoted to capital projects, and another $1 million from the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund, which is also from remitted federal alcohol excise tax funds.
The territory has a severe budget crisis and is unable to float bonds for capital projects. Its credit has been downgraded repeatedly in the last two years. As the funds could be spent on any government priority and the Legislature controls the purse strings, senators will determine if they agree with the governor that this is the best use of the money at this time, as it hears from government agencies trying to absorb budget cuts.
Also on the agenda is long-stalled legislation to merge the territory’s two horse racing commissions into a single entity and enact anti-doping regulations for racehorse owners.