LUMA may go after government deposits

By The Star Staff

As the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) called its workers to a meeting Thursday to discuss their relocation to other agencies in preparation for LUMA Energy’s takeover of the utility’s transmission and distribution (T&D) system on June 1, the private operator may seek to start collecting deposits for connections as well as delinquent payment from public agencies.

A document obtained by the STAR states that LUMA Energy is exploring the possibility of collecting over $55 million from agencies which PREPA did not charge the agencies as a courtesy. The document evaluated by the STAR says that PREPA does not have any rules exempting agencies from having the deposits collected and that LUMA Energy may go after such amounts. PREPA workers and retirees are also exempted from paying connection deposits and may also be impacted.

Tomás Torres, the consumer representative on PREPA’s governing board, said such a possibility of collecting deposits has not been presented to the board. LUMA Energy did not answer a question on the subject.

PREPA has 22,000 active government accounts. The deposit for some of the accounts is as high as $13,500.

“This means that LUMA could be collecting some $55.6 million,” the document says.

However, Torres said it is not only LUMA Energy that is going after delinquent payments from public entities.

PREPA’s board discussed at its meeting this week the possibility of taking agencies to court to collect $207 million from public corporations, $16.3 million from local agencies as well as $9.4 million from federal agencies owed as of March, Torres said.

“Since I joined PREPA’s board, I have claimed equal treatment for all consumers, including agencies and public corporations,” he told the STAR. “In January, upon my request, PREPA began to publish all debt owed by public entities and municipalities. Now as recently as the April board meeting, we discussed all mechanisms, including legal ones, to collect the debt.”

Meanwhile, PREPA cited all workers except those working in generation and in the pension system for a meeting Thursday afternoon to learn which public entities they will be moving to.

The notification is for PREPA workers who chose not to work for LUMA Energy or were not hired by the private firm. Some 500 T&D workers were hired by LUMA Energy.

The utility also sent another memo to workers ending remote work and asking employees to report for work at PREPA offices today.

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