Legislator to governor: Pull the plug on shorthanded LUMA

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia should cancel the contract awarded to LUMA Energy to manage the transmission and distribution (T&D) system of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) because the private operator does not have sufficient workers as required by the agreement, Popular Democratic Party Rep. Luis Raúl Torres Cruz said Monday.

LUMA Energy took over PREPA’s T&D on June 1 after a one-year front-end transition period under the terms of an 18-month supplemental agreement because the power utility has yet to exit bankruptcy to restructure some $9 billion in debt.

Torres Cruz said the private operator is unable to fix power outages because it does not have enough workers, which constitutes a violation of the agreement.

The legislator’s remarks came after the mayor of Isabela warned he will activate his own power brigades unless LUMA Energy makes repairs. It also came after more than 100 organizations wrote to President Joe Biden asking him to stop the disbursement of federal funds to LUMA Energy because the contract is in violation of a law that requires Puerto Rico to draw energy from renewable sources by 2050.

Torres Cruz argued that LUMA Energy has not complied with the condition established in the contract that provides “that LUMA Energy has a sufficient number of PREPA employees and other employees to offer services.” The Public-Private Partnerships Authority (P3A) is the manager of the contract but, Torres Cruz said, does not have the expertise or capacity to do so.

Torres Cruz said that in a letter sent to the P3A on June 15, LUMA’s chief executive officer, Wayne Stensby, indicated that the private consortium has a workforce of 1,600 field workers. Of these, 220 are classified as electricians, low-voltage power workers, meter technicians, foremen and field supervisors.

Previously, Stensby said he needed 3,800 workers to operate the T&D.

“Mr. Stensby has lied to the country, he does not tell the truth,” Torres Cruz said. “He has breached the contract.”

“This figure of 3,800 is well above that included by Stensby in his letter of June 15 to the P3A,” he said. “They cannot manage these six areas adequately and that is why they are failing.”

PREPA had 4,200 workers when it managed the T&D operation.

Stensby has been summoned to appear before the House of Representatives on Wednesday under threat of contempt.

At the news conference was another lawmaker who had charged over the weekend that for days the central towns of Lares, Adjuntas, Jayuya and Utuado have been without power for weeks.

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