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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Legislators demand grid answers from LUMA, PREPA

Legislators stressed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a document through which it is clear that “FEMA has not received transmission and distribution projects in order to evaluate them and approve the construction funds.”

By John McPhaul

The island House of Representatives on Monday called on Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) Executive Director Josué Colón Ortiz and LUMA Energy President & CEO Wayne Stensby to provide information on projects filed for improvements to the electrical system against a federal allocation of $9.5 billion.

“This is just one of several efforts … to achieve proper management of these funds and find those responsible for this unacceptable delay,” House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez said in a written statement.

Among the information requirements requested by Hernández Montañez, House Public Funds Oversight Committee Chairman Ángel Fourquet Cordero and Energy Affairs Committee Chairman Luis Raúl Torres Cruz of Colón and Stensby are: information and the number of projects filed for improvements to the system charged to the allocation of $9.5 billion; the status of the requests and estimates of the projects filed; how much money has been reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)/COR3 to PREPA and/or LUMA and for what purpose; the submission of an analysis and design of the generation, transmission and distribution network of Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, if it exists; submission of any details, and information and/or documentation related to the allocation of $9.5 billion.

“Before the consideration of the Committee that I chair, there is House Resolution 301, which enables the powers to supervise and carry out continuous evaluations on the use and management of resources, tools, programs, state and federal funds administered by the agencies, instrumentalities, public corporations and municipalities, or any other entity that receives public funds or incentives,” Fourquet Cordero said of the information requirements.

The Popular Democratic Party legislators also highlighted that FEMA issued a document through which it is clear that “FEMA has not received transmission and distribution projects in order to evaluate them and approve the construction funds.”

They emphasized that PREPA has presented five generation projects, and that LUMA has presented five projects for substations.

Likewise, they said that “as it has been during the past four and a half years, FEMA continues to be at the greatest disposal of PREPA, LUMA and the Government of Puerto Rico to provide the necessary technical support to address the delays in the presentation of projects on the part of local agencies.

Fourquet Cordero added that “last Wednesday, April 6, 2022, at night, Puerto Rico experienced a massive blackout causing the loss of the electrical system in the 78 municipalities. After many inconsistencies, incomplete goals, and several days in the dark, the electricity supply has not been restored to 100 percent,” he said. “As a result, there is general malaise about the handling of the situation and the population believes that the necessary efforts are not being made to improve the electrical network.”

“The residents of the island demand to know the reason for so many delays that, without a doubt, affect the quality of the electrical energy service in Puerto Rico,” the legislators added. “The country has endured too much.”

Earlier in the day, Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers’ Union (UTIER by its Spanish acronym) President Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo alleged that breaker 0082, which caught fire at the Costa Sur plant and caused a general blackout last Wednesday, had lacked proper maintenance for nine months.

“As part of the maintenance, there is what is known as Preventive Maintenance. This is work that is carried out periodically on the switches and other equipment in maximum periods of every two months,” Figueroa Jaramillo said in a written statement. “It consists of greasing, verification of the compressor that opens and closes the switch, how to drain the accumulation of water or humidity, and verification of other accessories.”

“The information that our people tell us is that the air compressor that moves the piston that opens or closes the switch did not operate due to the humidity accumulated during the nine months since LUMA assumed responsibility and no Preventive Maintenance was carried out on the Costa Sur switchyard and much less in switch 0082, which is the cause of the breakdown that left us without service to the entire country in the past four days,” the union leader added.

LUMA Energy’s vice president of strategic affairs, Kevin Acevedo, said at a press conference last Thursday that the switch “had all maintenance up to date.” However, he did not present evidence of when the last maintenance was performed on the equipment.

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