Groups reiterate opposition to rate hikes in a PREPA debt deal
By John McPhaul
A coalition of groups led by the Citizen’s Front for a Debt Audit met Wednesday to reiterate their opposition to any Puerto Rico Electric Energy Authority (PREPA) debt adjustment plan that leads to an increase in energy rates.
The other groups in the coalition are the Sierra Club, Queremos Sol, CAMBIO, El Puente Enlace Latino para la Climate Action, Environmental Dialogue, the Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union and the Energy Thinking Coalition.
“This week we heard the governor ask the fiscal control board to accelerate the pace and present a debt restructuring program by December 1, but nothing about preventing the terrible rises in energy rates that the bondholders are asking for to pay for their bonds,” the groups said in a written statement. “We are here all together as just one group to insist that he should not support any increase in electricity rates for bondholders who bought their bonds knowing the risk that they faced.”
Attorney Rolando Emmanuelli Jiménez stressed the importance that any plan submitted is fair, and that it prioritizes the transformation of the electrical system and the payment of current and future pensioners, something that is incompatible with the payment to the bondholders.
“We don’t understand the need and insistence to go with haste and ask that an agreement be reached when litigation is pending and when the self-same [oversight] board got up from the negotiating table because the bondholders were asking for more than their right,” he said. “The best thing for Puerto Rico is to annul judicially the guarantee on the bonds so as not to pay an illegitimate, unsustainable unaudited debt.”
Cathy Kunkel, spokeswoman for CAMBIO and Queremos Sol, noted that among the efforts to prevent paying the debt is support for a bill currently before the Senate (1497) that seeks to restructure PREPA’s debt.
“We are asking the senators from all the delegations to vote in favor of the measure and that they stand firm on just criteria for the adjustment of PREPA: oppose any increase in the [electricity] rates in order to pay the bondholders and not to protect current and future pensions,” Kunkel said. “It is indispensable that both the governor and the Legislative Assembly unite in the approval of this bill because not only with words do you achieve a just agreement, but also with firmness and a true commitment to preventing any [ill-advised] proposal, including even if it comes from the [oversight] board.”
The coalition plans to hold meetings around the island to educate the public about the PREPA debt. The first will be next Wednesday, Nov. 16, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Bar Association Office in San Juan. Meetings are also planned for Adjuntas, Ponce, Mayagüez, Loíza and Caguas.