PDP House candidates to NPP Rep. Parés: ‘Stop politicizing with the LUMA-PREPA deal’

By The Star Staff

Several Popular Democratic Party (PDP) House candidates urged House Economic Development Committee Chairman Víctor Parés to stop politicizing with the controversial contract awarded to LUMA Energy to operate and manage the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) transmission and distribution system.

PDP Rep. Luis Raúl Torres Cruz, along with House candidates Manuel Calderón Cerame and Robert Zayas, Parés, a New Progressive Party lawmaker, summoned LUMA Energy to the hearing slated for Thursday to ascertain the plans of PREPA’s executive director Efran Paredes.

“Representative Parés wasted too much time before investigating the details of the process that led to PREPA’s awarding of the contract to LUMA Energy, and now, just two months before the general elections, he wants to resume this investigation without including firm officials among those he cited for the hearing. We do not want to think that the legislator is using this issue as part of a last-minute political strategy, ” Calderón Cerame said.

The LUMA Energy contract was signed in June by the administration of Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced. This company will be in charge of operating, managing, maintaining, repairing and restoring the electricity grid of the public corporation for a period of 15 years.

“As indicated, LUMA Energy will receive annual compensation starting at $70 million. Then, this amount would go up to $90 million and $100 million, the second and third year respectively, to be completed with a payment of $105 million for the rest of the term of this contract, which represents a high cost for the country,” Torres Cruz said.

PREPA asked the US District Court as part of its bankruptcy process to give payment priority status to the fees that the utility will pay to LUMA Energy, a request opposed by several creditors, including PREPA’s workers’ union, the Electric Industry and Irrigation Workers Union (UTIER in its Spanish acronym).

Torres Cruz mentioned that “although it was always said that LUMA would only be in charge of the transmission and distribution of energy, it turns out that it will also be in charge of system operations, including customer service and billing, which raises too many questions.”

Meanwhile, Zayas noted that UTIER asked the Court of Appeals of Puerto Rico to review the Energy Bureau’s approval of the contract and to suspend the contract’s transition process to avoid spending public funds, while the legal procedures are completed.

The Court of Appeal is reviewing whether it was proper for Energy Bureau Chairman Edison Aviles to participate in the selection of LUMA Energy and approve the contract.

“At that time, the Governor undertook to investigate the legal proposals of the UTIER, however, this has come to nothing, so we demand that this investigation be responsibly resumed and that the acquired rights of the PREPA employees be respected,” Zayas said.

On the other hand, Torres questioned what will happen with the adjustment to the electricity rates promised by the NPP Administration, since there are no guarantees to honor it, once LUMA takes possession of PREPA.

“Puerto Ricans do not have to pay the consequences of the bad decisions of this government. The country cannot bear more taxes, nor more increases in the rates of the most basic services to live, ” he said.

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