Meets with Assistant Interior Secretary Babauta; Several
Key Issues Discussed
Posted by Jean
Greaux on May 7, 2012 at 2:35 PM AST
Governor de Jongh
held a productive meeting last week with Assistant Secretary of the
Interior Anthony Babauta at which the two discussed a wide variety of issues important to the Virgin Islands.
Mr. Babauta spent much of last week in the territory, touring the islands and meeting with public officials from the administration and the 29th Legislature, as well as other community leaders.
to the Governor speak about the meeting .mp3 (7MB)
“The Interior Department is very much an advocate for this territory, and Secretary Babauta has always been a supporter of the Virgin Islands,”
the governor said.
“Secretary Babauta demonstrated this commitment to our territory's success after the sudden announcement of the HOVENSA closure, when he organized a meeting with high-level federal officials for us to present our case for greater assistance,”
Much of last week’s bilateral meeting focused on the territory's energy challenges. During his visit,
Mr. Babauta toured the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority facility on St. Croix with Karl Knight, Director of the Virgin Islands Energy Office. Knight shared the territory's aggressive approach to reduce its dependence on diesel fuels, including the potential the implementation of natural gas infrastructure, solar and wind projects, and the proposed electrical interconnection with Puerto Rico.
The governor and Secretary Babauta discussed the administration’s continuing efforts with the federal government to establish a visa waiver program to boost the territory’s medical and sports tourism. They also discussed progress regarding the proposed land swap to facilitate construction of a new school on St. John, and addressed the Salt Rive co-management agreement and the ongoing development of a state-of –the art Marine Research Center at Salt River.
Mr. Babauta used some of his time in the territory to meet public, private and non-profit sector health care professionals to gain a better understanding of the territory's health care challenges.
He met local farmers on St. Croix and spoke about agricultural development projects with Agriculture Secretary Louis Peterson. The two toured the site of a new agricultural development in Estate Bethlehem.
The two also talked about the 2017 Transfer Day centennial celebration, and the appropriate opportunity for federal involvement.
Governor de Jongh has already opened discussions on the matter with the Danish Ambassador to the United States to ensure the historic milestone, which is fast approaching, will be properly celebrated and its potential benefit to the territory maximized.