PDP lawmaker denounces the $9.5 billion in FEMA funds won’t be enough to rebuild grid
By The Star Staff
Because of inefficiencies caused by LUMA Energy, the $9.5 billion in FEMA funds awarded to Puerto Rico will not be enough to rebuild the power grid following the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017, Popular Democratic Party Rep. Luis Raúl Torres said Thursday.
“Luma will leave us a partially rebuilt power system because of the manner it is dealing and designing the projects that will be paid for with federal funds,” Torres said LUMA Energy proposes 624 projects proposed in a 10-year reconstruction plan.
LUMA has already presented 180 projects to FEMA. Out of those, FEMA has approved 39 but of those, 22 already have funds allocated, most of which are for new poles and street lighting.
The cost of the 39 projects, which by 2020 was $459 million, went up to $1.3 billion, which is more than 10% of the funding allocated by FEMA to rebuild the power grid.
Torres said that many of the projects had been developed by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) but were delayed by the arrival of LUMA in the summer of 2021.
“LUMA changed the design and engineering which had the effect of increasing costs. Most of the projects being done by LUMA have to do with poles and street lighting,” he said.
He said he has information that the first 10,000 poles that were installed by LUMA Energy do not meet required specifications and “they will be left like that because LUMA won’t pay for them again.”
The private operator is also working with the design of some 70 feeders or cables that supply energy and on so-called reclosers, which help reconnect the system.
Nonetheless, Torres said the most serious concern he has about the use of the federal funds for projects is the change in specifications because that increases the cost of the projects.
“When you increase the cost, there is a reduction in money left for other projects,” he said.
Torres also said he has information that LUMA may be using federal funds for operational costs to repair lines and substations.
He also said he is worried that the parent companies of LUMA Energy, ATCO and Quanta, are creating subsidiaries and giving the contracts to carry on projects.
He provided the names of Centurion and ATCO Infrastructure as companies that have already been contracted by LUMA. Centurion was hired to deal with the vegetation.
The Popular Democratic Party lawmaker reiterated that the contract with LUMA should be canceled and he does not expect the private operator to cancel the contract if PREPA is unable to reach a debt deal agreement. “They have over 4,5 billion reasons to continue operating here,” he said.