Thursday, November 23, 2017

Power utility director ordered to submit damage report to Puerto Rico Senate

By on November 14, 2017

SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Senate had ordered the executive director of the Electric Power Authority (Prepa), Ricardo Ramos, to “present a report of the damage the electric system in Puerto Rico sustained after the passage of Hurricane María and a detailed plan of the restoration of the electric service,” Senate Joint Resolution 61 reads. Ramos has since resigned and Justo González has taken over the  public utility’s reins as interim director.

The resolution, presented by Sen. Carmelo Ríos, was approved the day before Ramos appeared before the U.S. House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. At that hearing, Ramos is expected to answer questions about the contract awarded to Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC.

Ríos said the resolution’s purpose is that Puerto Ricans can access the same information that Ramos gives to Congress.

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“This is already looking like the tale of the boy who cried wolf once too often, and the worst thing that can happen to a citizenry is lack of knowledge,” the senator said.

The resolution gives the Prepa official five days to deliver a report “with a clear picture of where the operations are located and the route mapped for the reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s electricity system.” Said reconstruction route must be detailed by “municipalities, sectors, neighborhoods and urbanizations.”

Sen. Abel Nazario, meanwhile, indicated that he supports the measure as a tool to gather more information, but believes the preciseness requested by the Senate resolution is not realistic given the severity of the grid’s damage.

“No one can say when it’s going to come back [electricity] because the system was destroyed,” Nazario said.

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Nazario also attacked lawmakers who, although critical of the island’s grid, have not allocated funds to be able to carry out special projects such as burying power lines.

“It’s very easy to say in a hearing that Puerto Rico has an archaic [electrical] system, but they have not said how much money they are going to give us,” Nazario said, emphasizing that the funds the island receives through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can only be directed to restore the system, not to modernize it.

In Sen. Larry Seilhamer’s case, his reservations had to do with expecting a broader analysis of Prepa’s plans. In addition to requesting a report on a prospective action plan to restore service, Seilhamer said “the question to ask is what was the plan before the event” took place.

Seilhamer requested that the Prepa Mitigation Plan Ahead of an Atmospheric Event, which the senator received last week, but is dated Aug. 29. The senator and vice president of the Senate indicated that the veracity of the mitigation plan must be questioned since it implied that Puerto Rico was better prepared to face the havoc wreaked by Hurricane María.

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