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CIAPR Sets Eyes on Bill 2742 to Revitalize Prepa

By on January 21, 2016

The Puerto Rico Engineers & Land Surveyors Association (CIAPR by its Spanish initials) is closely monitoring the evaluation and approval process for House Bill 2742, which aims to create the Law for the Revitalization of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) because it may include dispositions that may be detrimental to its objective.

The CIAPR recently presented its official position on the project through a memorandum before the Special House Committee on a New Public Policy on Energy, presided by Rep. Jesús F. Santa Rodríguez (Popular Democratic Party-Caguas), because the association considers it is its responsibility to express itself on public-interest issues such as the improvement of the island’s energy system and the environment, in tune with the new global standards for sustainable development.

In its presentation, the CIAPR expressed concerns that the project doesn’t state the existing technical, financial and legal frameworks that gave rise to Prepa’s current situation that requires the utility to be restructured.

“The bill mentions minimal details of the corporation’s finances that only make sense to those who are familiar with Prepa information. It also doesn’t include the options that were evaluated, the analysis of the most relevant options and the adopted option,” said Ralph A. Kreil Rivera, president of the CIAPR.

The bill also calls for reducing the number of members of the Governing Board from nine to seven, and that these appointments aren’t done by a foreign company. The CIAPR expressed great concern that this new arrangement eliminates two seats that by law were to be occupied by licensed engineers in Puerto Rico, one of whom has knowledge of the electrical engineering field.

“The elimination of these two positions would leave Prepa’s Governing Board without the technical input that only an engineer can offer, which is essential in a corporation of that nature,” said Kreil, who was also critical that foreigners could carry out the appointments, when Puerto Rico has professionals who are able to complete this function.

Another area in the bill that the CIAPR feels should be clarified is the amendment regarding the Tax Exemption Section that includes subsidies to municipalities.

“We are worried that requiring municipalities to save on their annual consumption of electricity, without specifying the percentage, will lead mayors to sacrifice their citizens’ safety by shutting down the streetlights in communities to avoid being fined or penalized. This scenario would have negative effect on citizens’ vigilance and security, and the social cost would be incalculable,” Kreil said.

Regarding this issue, the CIAPR recommended municipalities be required to submit an annual work plan to save electricity that doesn’t include street illumination; however, if it is discovered there was wasteful use of the lighting, the municipality should be fined.

Kreil said the legislation’s purpose is to address Prepa’s immediate problems and, from that entity’s point of view, it is an adequate plan. However, if it is evaluated from Prepa clients’ perspective, the bill doesn’t clearly portray the effect the plan would have on Puerto Rico’s electric-power service or how much that service would cost in the short and the long terms.

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