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U.S. senators call for investigation into Puerto Rico power restoration

By on April 5, 2018

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson met with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló during a trip to the island in October. (Courtesy)

SAN JUAN – Republican and Democratic Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson requested the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to further investigate the ongoing power restoration work by holding additional hearings on hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico

In their letter, addressed to the chairman and ranking member of the committee, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), respectively, the lawmakers also sought information about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) decision to reduce the number of utility repair workers on the island.

“We would welcome an opportunity to discuss the Corp’s decision to begin reducing this workforce on the island while our fellow Americans in Vieques, Caguas, and elsewhere continue to struggle,” the senators wrote.

Sen. Marco Rubio during a press conference in Puerto Rico a few days after Hurricane Maria struck the island. (Juan J. Rodríguez/CB)

In a recent letter addressed to Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, USACE said it “remains committed to the restoration of power to the people of Puerto Rico” and assured it would stay on the island until electric service is fully restored.

“We are deeply concerned that six months after Hurricane Maria hit the island, there are still residents without power and many more with only irregular or intermittent electricity,” the letter continues.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s deputy director, Justo González, said Thursday that 95.45% of the public utility’s customers had power.

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“We still lack 4.55 percent of our customers, around 67,000 customers who still don’t have electric service. Our commitment is to continue energizing them. We are going to reach them. We are at the most difficult moment, but we do have strategies to carry it out,” the official said.

In addition to Rubio and Nelson, the letter was signed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Bob Casey (D-PA).

“Reliable power is critical to the island’s economic recovery and is necessary for the health and well-being of Puerto Ricans,” the letter concludes.

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