LUMA & PREPA chiefs’ absence at hearing angers House panel chair
By Alejandra M. Jover Tovar
Special to The Star
Visibly angered, Rep. Luis Raúl Torres Cruz lamented the fact that neither the executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), Josué Colón Ortiz, or the CEO of LUMA Energy, Wayne Stensby, appeared at Thursday’s public hearing before the Committee on Economic Development, Planning, Telecommunications, Public-Private Partnerships, and Energy, which Torres Cruz chairs.
“We summoned them so that both officials could appear before legislators and the people of Puerto Rico to answer how the electric power system is doing and answer the many questions of the committee members and district representatives,” Torres Cruz said during the hearing.
“Through resolutions RCC 446 and RCC 243, we summoned engineer Josué Colón, from PREPA, and engineer Wayne Stensby, from LUMA Energy, so that both officials could appear before legislators and the people of Puerto Rico. … After I left the Capitol [on Wednesday], both PREPA and LUMA sent letters saying they wouldn’t appear because they were embroiled in restoring the power system 24/7,” the committee chairman said.
“However, the excuses given by these officials are an affront, an irresponsibility, and a lack of respect for the people of Puerto Rico, because these officials appear daily in press conferences controlled by them in which they do not answer the questions asked by journalists, and even cry at press conferences, but they do not have time to appear to account to the people of Puerto Rico with specific questions and direct situations about what the different municipalities are experiencing and what the mayors are claiming,” he said.
“People write to me every day to say that there is no light in the streets, and when they call LUMA, they are told that the area is already energized,” Torres Cruz said, noting that schools, buildings and houses around the island are still without energy or water service.
The independent lawmaker said both PREPA and LUMA sent letters excusing their leadership from appearing at the public hearing. LUMA added that they’ve already sent more than 300,000 pages of information.
“They are so deceitful because they have submitted thousands of pages, but they do not respond to our request,” Torres Cruz said. “They are just filler pages that they send to our committee to audit what they are doing.”
“They are running away from the committee like the devil from the cross because they know they cannot lie here,” he said. “They are playing ping-pong; Josué Colón says the problem lies with LUMA, and when LUMA goes alone to the media, they say the problem lies in the generation area. But when they are together, they hold hands and say they are working as a team.”
“When Hurricane Maria happened, PREPA could say where, when and what each brigade was doing,” he added. “If LUMA can’t do it, it’s because it’s useless.”
In response to the officials’ absence, Torres Cruz said the committee sent a letter, both in English and Spanish (such as LUMA did), where they informed both agencies that they had until Monday, Oct. 3 at 10 a.m., to appear before the committee, “or we will go to the San Juan Superior Court to compel them to appear under penalty of contempt.”
“There is no reason why they are not present,” Torres Cruz continued. “Josué Ortiz does not turn a screw in the boilers; he is the highest ranking administrative officer. Nor does Stensby move a wire, lift a pole, or cut down vegetation. He is there as an administrative officer. The letter was clear: they could send an official if he could not show up.”
“It is an excuse that makes no sense, and what it shows is that these people from LUMA do not respect or have the slightest consideration for our country,” he said. “They believe that we are Indians in a loincloth. They are insensitive.”
As for Colón Ortiz, Torres Cruz said “it makes me sad that he has colluded with LUMA and has put himself at the level of LUMA Energy in turning his back on the transparent information that should be given to the people of Puerto Rico.”
“They are putting the lives of the citizens at risk,” he said.
Finally, the lawmaker called on Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia to make both executives appear before his committee.
“Mr. Governor, you have said that your government is one of transparency,” he said. “Exercise your functions as governor; they are making a mockery of you and the people of Puerto Rico. This is an attack on our country, and they are insensitive to the needs of their fellow man.”
Reps. Mariana Nogales Molinelli of the Citizen Victory Movement, Denis Márquez Lebrón of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, Lisy Burgos Muñiz of the Dignity Project and other legislators were present during the hearing, each with a set of questions that they assured they will be asking on Monday.