House set to defeat measure to assign $750 million to PREPA

By John McPhaul

The island House of Representatives on Wednesday was poised to defeat House Joint Resolution 139, which would have assigned $750 million from the General Fund to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to, among other things, pay creditors.

The measure was requested by the federal Financial Oversight and Management Board. House Speaker Rafael Hernández Montañez held a meeting on Tuesday night with several members of the federal entity created under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), and they insisted on not amending the contract with private consortium LUMA Energy to operate PREPA’s transmission and distribution system.

“The governor [Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia] and [the oversight board] insist that amending the contract is unconstitutional. That is not acceptable,” Hernández Montañez said Tuesday evening upon his arrival at La Fortaleza to meet with the governor. “The [House] Finance Committee is going to prepare the final report and at noon [Wednesday] it goes down to the plenary session and we are going to defeat it.”

The results of the vote on the measure in the lower chamber were not available at press time.

“And from now on there are going to be other steps,” the House speaker added. “But the important thing is that we are not accepting the decision of the board.”

However, the executive director of the oversight board, Natalie Jaresko, let island lawmakers know ---- in a letter sent last Saturday in which the board entrusted the approval of the measure -- that regardless of the legislative procedure, PROMESA allows the oversight board to approve the funds.

“We disagree with Mrs. Jaresko. That letter was unilateral, there was no vote of the full board on that matter,” the House speaker said. “But we are going to exhaust the remedies and we are going to go to court. We are not only going to go to court, this is going to be heard in Washington, because we are going to take the message to the president of the United States [Joe Biden] and to Congress.”

Hernández Montañez said the motion of the oversight board, which has the approval of the governor, is a Republican measure that is not consistent with the current federal leadership model.

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