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Puerto Rico power utility chief resigns amid Whitefish contract scandal

By on November 17, 2017

SAN JUAN – On Friday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced that the island’s power utility director, Ricardo Ramos, was resigning.

The governor said the search has begun for “the best available talent in and outside Puerto Rico” to take over as the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (Prepa) new executive director, and recommended the utility board appoint the current director of generation, Justo González, as interim director.

“I trust that this process will be completed as quickly as possible, with the purpose of not affecting the work leading to the restoration of the electrical system throughout the Island, in accordance with the guidelines we have set,” Rosselló added in a written statement

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After speaking at a healthcare-related event earlier Friday, the governor told the press that Prepa’s governing board was accepting Ramos’s resignation, at his request.

Via a press release, Ramos confirmed he submitted his resignation to the utility’s governing board effective Friday.

Ramos’s resignation comes after weeks of controversy over the hiring of Montana-based Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC, whose contract to restore transmission and distribution lines in the mountainous inland of the island was capped at $300 million, but then canceled effective Nov. 30.

This week, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. Senate held a hearing in which the governor and the utility director were questioned about contracting Whitefish after the emergency caused by Hurricane María in September, as well the delay in seeking support from stateside public utilities through mutual aid agreements.

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Rosselló said he intends to have is target of having the 80% of the island’s power generation capacity up by Dec. 1.

“The resignation was worked on…in the best interest of the people of Puerto Rico,” the governor said earlier, explaining that although “the executive director is very professional,” he believes Ramos has caused “distractions” in his execution as head of the public corporation.

“The director is a professional. A time has come when it is unsustainable, and for the benefit of the people of Puerto Rico, that decision was made. I’m not focused on past actions, I’m focused on the future. I expect an effective, immediate transition, that we can continue with the pace of restoring energy,” Rosselló said.

 

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2 Comments

  1. john Henry

    November 18, 2017 at 11:37 am

    “Rosselló said he intends to have is target of having the 80% of the island’s power generation capacity up by Dec. 1.”

    Is this sloppy thinking on the part of Pedrito or sloppy writing on the part of the unnamed reporter?

    Do you and the governor really mean transmission instead of generation? If so, you should clarify.

    Yes, the transmission lines from the south are a problem. If PREPA were not almost criminally negligent over the past 30-40 years they would not be. The metro area has, in theory, around 1500MW of generating capacity. Cambalache adds another 300MW or so on the north coast. Also probably another 200-300MW in gas turbines on the north coast (Ceiba, Humacao, Arecibo, Vega Baja)

    The hurricane caused no damage of any consequence to any of it. IF IT WAS OPERABLE it should be sufficient to light most of the north and the south coast plants to light the south coast.

    They are not operable. I currently sit in the dark in Fajardo because 25MW of the 50MW Ceiba plant is not operable. The plant that is running apparently has a sketchy bearing and could fail at any moment for good.

    As of 3 weeks ago none of the plants in Vega Baja were running. I do not know whether because they can’t or PREPA doesn’t want to. In the meantime people sit in the dark.

    Palo Seco is off line. San Juan Steam near Buchanan seems to be operating only partially.

    So, Caribbean Business, how about get off your duffs. How about find out WHY the north coast gets all its power from the south. Find out WHY so much of the north coast generation is inoperable.

    Perhaps you could start doing a feature showing what plants are up and running and how much capacity they actually have. Not nameplate but how much they can actually generate and how much they are actually generating.

    People in the media wonder why nobody trusts them. This is just one example.

    You are not doing your job. You are failing your readers and the people of Puerto Rico

    John R Henry

  2. john Henry

    November 18, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Just to emphasize, the reason these plants are inoperable has nothing to do with Hurricane Maria and everything to do with PREPA neglecting them in the past and letting them deteriorate into unusability.

    If PREPA were a private company, the stockholders would have long ago sued the bejabbers out of management and ousted it for malfeasance. Perhaps even criminal malfeasance.

    John R Henry

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