House votes to postpone LUMA Energy contract start
By The Star Staff
The island House of Representatives passed a resolution on Wednesday to postpone until Jan. 15, 2022 -- or a later date -- the implementation of the LUMA Energy contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) so that within that period the contract can be amended.
The measure still has to go to the Senate, but Popular Democratic Party Rep. Luis Raúl Torres said he did not expect the resolution to have any problems there.
The measure expressly orders the Public-Private Partnerships Authority, the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, the Office of Administration and Transformation of Government Human Resources, PREPA and the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau to comply with the postponement.
Critics of the contract have said it is onerous for the island and will result in higher rates. PREPA’s primary union, the Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union, has said it interferes with workers’ acquired rights.
After the vote, House Speaker Rafael Hernández Montañez told reporters that, although he does not believe in giving instructions to members of the sister legislative body, he does believe that the Senate must act “as soon as possible.”
Under the contract, LUMA Energy would take control of PREPA’s transmission and distribution system on June 1. The contract is in the front-end transition period.
Hernández Montañez said the LUMA Energy issue is a priority for Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago, but does not contemplate meeting with him to discuss the next steps.
Senate Majority Leader Javier Aponte Dalmau is conducting his own investigation into the contract.
“To be diligent and effective, it must be approved as soon as possible. That is the reality,” Hernández Montañez said of the resolution. “I believe that each body has a responsibility and recognizes what is a priority and what is not. From the [lower] chamber I cannot establish the priorities of the other body.”
Torres defended the findings of his investigation.
“With all the findings that we have made in this investigation, it is clear that our responsibility as legislators is to protect the best interests of the people of Puerto Rico and to include the amendments … but at least we have to open the door so that this contract can be amended to protect the best interests of Puerto Rico and the acquired rights of the workers of the Electric Power Authority,” he said.