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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

After another substation fire, union leader fires back at LUMA over condition of power grid

Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union President Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo

By The Star Staff

A fire broke out Tuesday at a power substation in San Juan, the second one in less than a month.

Brigades from LUMA Energy, the private operator of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) transmission and distribution system, handled the situation as quickly and safely as possible and restored power to the area. The substation is located on Tapia Street.

“We take any breakdown seriously and use strategies and tactics to ensure that our customers receive an immediate response from our teams,” the operator said in a statement.

It was the second time a power substation has been damaged by flames. A huge explosion and fire occurred on July 12 at a power substation in Jayuya that left the entire town without power.

At the time, Belmaries Tores, the regional director of operations, said some 6,500 clients were affected.

LUMA officials have blamed PREPA and the Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union (UTIER) for the condition of the transmission and distribution system in social media over the past few days in response to complaints about power outages and other breakdowns.

UTIER President Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo said Tuesday UTIER is not responsible for the conditions of the island’s transmission and distribution system.

A report done by former PREPA managing firm Alix Partners a few years ago blamed management for the lack of maintenance and mismanagement at PREPA.

“What LUMA has been saying over the past weekend is a vile lie,” Figueroa Jaramillo said in a written statement. “UTIER is not responsible for any administrative, managerial or operational decision that has been made in the Authority, since the unions do not manage any agency. The people of LUMA know that, just as they know that the country rejects their services and the disaster they are.”

The union leader stressed that, despite the fact that LUMA Energy has more economic resources than PREPA, the amount of time that people are without electricity and their recovery time has increased by 25% percent compared to PREPA.

“Instead of focusing on UTIER, LUMA has to admit that they are a disaster and that they have not been able, nor will they be able, to meet the needs of the electrical system and that the only thing they know is how to ask for increases in the bill,” Figueroa Jaramillo said. “In a year and a month, they have been paid, between operation and service charges, more than $1.1 billion, almost 20 percent more than the budget that PREPA had to operate. LUMA has access to $14 billion in federal funds and yet what they do is spread the blame instead of seeing to it that the public has the electricity system it deserves. In addition to that, it has abandoned the disengagement program because it has a deficit.”

The UTIER president blamed both the administrations of the New Progressive Party and those of the Popular Democratic Party for the administrative decisions made at PREPA in past years.

“Here the only ones responsible for what has happened in the Authority are the administrations of the two government parties that have appointed, managed, issued debt and that bankrupted an entire country,” he said. “They are responsible for everything, not UTIER.”

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