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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Governor: Time is not yet right to cancel LUMA contract

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi (Gov. Pierluisi/Facebook)

By John McPhaul

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Wednesday responded to calls for the cancellation of the contract with LUMA Energy, the private operator of the island’s electricity transmission and distribution system, saying that the contract must continue in his opinion because the bankruptcy process of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has not been completed.

“As for the general theme of LUMA, it is the same as always,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “Obviously, that is the operator we have for the transmission and distribution network which is operating under a supplementary contract because the bankruptcy of the Electric Power Authority is still pending, it has not been resolved.”

When the bankruptcy is resolved, then the 15-year contract with the private consortium will enter into force, and at all times it must be supervised, and that is to be done by different entities, Pierluisi said.

“The [Puerto Rico] Energy Bureau does it independently, the Public-Private Partnerships Authority does it, La Fortaleza itself does it through the chief of staff and the assistant secretary of energy affairs does it through the Electric Power Authority through Josué Colón, its executive director, among other entities,” the governor said. “So we will continue to monitor the operator so that it improves its performance and so that we do not have interruptions in service that could have been avoided.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. José “Cheito” Rivera Madera blasted the delegation of the governor’s New Progressive Party (NPP) in the island House of Representatives for voting against a resolution to terminate the contract with LUMA Energy.

“The NPP delegation in the House of Representatives turned its back on the Puerto Rican people at this time when there is an emergency due to the lack of electricity in several towns,” Madera Rivera said. “We cannot continue to attend to bills that save face for LUMA. There have already been too many opportunities that have been given to this company to fulfill what it promised the country. We will see how Jenniffer González [Colón] reacts to this vote by her delegation. Let’s remember that it was one of her most often-mentioned issues in her primary campaign against Governor Pierluisi.”

González Colón, who is positioned as the NPP candidate for governor after she defeated the incumbent Pierluisi in the party primary earlier this month, said she might agree to ending the contract.

Late Tuesday the lower chamber approved House Joint Resolution 660, authored by Rivera Madera and Rep. Juan José Santiago Nieves, to order the governor, PREPA, the Public-Private Partnerships Authority and LUMA to terminate the Puerto Rico Transmission and Distribution System Operation and Maintenance Agreement.

The resolution was approved with the votes in favor cast by the delegations of the PDP, the Puerto Rican Independence Party, the Citizen Victory Movement and the Dignity Project, with the votes against coming from the entire NPP delegation.

In addition, House Concurrent Resolution 80 was approved, which seeks to evaluate the LUMA Energy contract and seeks to make a new company selection or establish a new public corporation entity that assumes the reins of the transmission and distribution system.

“The agency in charge of the electrical system has not performed its function of repairing or replacing electrical transmission equipment and infrastructure or complied with the plan to remove vegetation and trim branches, which has been one of the causes of the constant blackouts,” House Majority Leader Ángel Matos García said.

Later on Wednesday, LUMA said in its updated report that more than 180,000 energy customers were without electricity service in various island municipalities.

The outages affect both residential customers and planned improvement projects in several regions.

In the Arecibo region, 22,361 clients (12.61%) were without service, while in Bayamón the figure reached 45,764 clients (21.14%). In Mayagüez, 8,904 clients (4.11%) were affected and in San Juan, 11,156 clients (4.41%) were without electricity. Carolina, meanwhile, reported 26,000 customers without service (18.35%) and Ponce had 18,389 affected customers (8.65%). In Caguas, 55,062 customers (21.98%) were without service.

The total number of customers without service amounted to 187,636, which represents 12.78% of the customers reported in all regions.

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