Prepa Management Accused of ‘Playing Russian Roulette’ to Privatize Utility
SAN JUAN – The management of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) is playing Russian roulette with the public utility in order to privatize it, Ricardo Santos, secretary of Health and Occupational Safety for the Irrigation & Electrical Workers Union (Utier buy its Spanish acronym), charged Monday.
Santos explained that the temporary closing of the Aguirre powerplant in Salinas, as a result of a fire, is part of a scheme by Prepa Chief Restructuring Officer Lisa Donahue and the public corporation’s executive director, Javier Quintana, to devalue the utility.
“That is part of a systematic and well-orchestrated plan so the good friends of [Senate President] Eduardo Bhatia and [former Gov.] Aníbal Acevedo Vilá can buy it at bargain price,” Santos told a radio station.
As Senate president, Bhatia pushed energy reform in 2014 that created the Energy Commission to promote the government’s energy policy.
Bhatia has publicly said Prepa needs to be privatized so that it won’t be at the mercy of different governing administrations every four years.
UTIER says the goal of the restructuring is to sell Prepa to the private sector, a scenario that former Acevedo Vilá is promoting as a lobbyist.
Santos said Prepa’s management is forcing workers to retire and is not replacing them, leaving facilities without enough hands for maintenance work at the power plants.
Aguirre is out of service, which puts the electrical system at the verge of a collapse unless there is programmed energy relief, which means there will be power outages every time there is high demand to avoid the collapse of the entire system, he warned.
While Quintana has said engineers will deal with all emergency situations, Santos said the engineers were not mechanics, welders or masons.
The fire at Aguirre was caused by a burner that had leaked oil, causing a fire that affected 11 floors at the powerplant.