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Senate to Investigate September’s Island-wide Blackout

By on February 2, 2017

SAN JUAN – The Senate approved Wednesday Resolution 29 to investigate the island power-grid’s collapse on Sept. 21, the reasons for the blackout, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (Prepa) delay in reestablishing service and the damages resulting from the event.

Senate Vice President Larry Seilhamer, who authored the bill, said its intention is not only to know what caused the outage, for which Prepa never issued a report publicly, and what measures will be taken to prevent a similar situation in the future.

Prepa's Aguirre Central plant (pictured) suffered a fire on Wednesday, Sept. 21, leaving most of Puerto Rico without electricity. The outage took a toll on the restaurant and hotel industries.

Prepa’s Aguirre Central plant (pictured) suffered a fire on Wednesday, Sept. 21, leaving most of Puerto Rico without electric power. (File)

The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Senate delegation favored the resolution. PDP Senate Minority Leader Eduardo Bhatia indicated they would collaborate with the investigation, and requested that Prepa’s final report on the island-wide blackout be published.

Bhatia also advocated for the replacement of  Puerto Rico’s powerplants, most of which have been in use for more than 20 years. “I favor substituting the entire fleet little by little,” said the senator, who also suggested the change be made to a system that uses renewable energy, such as solar energy.

Meanwhile, the Senate approved Resolution 32 to investigate and analyze the salaries, stipends and economic benefits received by members of Prepa’s Governing Board, and their impact on the public corporation’s service delivery and finances.

See also: Senate to investigate Prepa contract with AES

The legislative body also approved to investigate the Education Council’s economic, administrative, and operational situation (SR 41), and the status of the unfinished parts of PR-10. (SR 49).

Another resolution (SR 35), was approved to congratulate Gov. Ricardo Rosselló for his efforts in identifying strategies to achieve healthcare fund parity. This resolution was opposed by the PDP and Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) delegations.

Bhatia claimed these efforts are part of his work, which is why “we won’t congratulate him for everything that is on his agenda.”

Before this argument, New Progressive Party (NPP) Senate Minority Leader Carmelo Ríos said “the governor needs legislative support,” because “if he is successful, that is everyone’s success.”

See also: House Approves Status Referendum Bill with Amendments

The Senate expects to concur WeWednesday with amendments the House introduced to SB 51 to hold a status referendum with the “statehood” and “free association/independence” options.

It could also approve HB 454 to establish the government as a single employer by centralizing agencies to allow for employee mobility among them.

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