The San Juan Daily Star
PREPA chief requests clearance to tap budget for payments to retirees, Genera & others
By The Star Staff
Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) Executive Director Josué Colón Ortiz said Tuesday that he asked the Financial Oversight and Management Board and the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB) to allow the utility to use money from its budget to meet obligations, including payment to retirees.
Colón Ortiz said he hopes the oversight board and the PREB promptly respond to his request to use $150 million in PREPA money to pay for the public corporation’s obligations, the Genera PR contract, and retirees’ pensions.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s Employee Retirement System (SREAEE by Spanish initials) informed its members in February that it may not have sufficient liquidity to pay retirement benefits starting as early as May.
As the STAR reported on March 17, PREPA was planning to seek authorization from the oversight board to amend its budget to make an additional employer contribution from operating cash on hand. The information was in a Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority status report to the federal Title III bankruptcy court filed by law firms O’Melveny & Myers and Marini Pietrantoni Muñiz LLC.
“The funds that we are requesting are funds that we have in our accounts and are the product of the work of the corporation’s employees and have nothing to do with billing,” Colón Ortiz said at a meeting of PREPA’s governing board.
“It’s a transparent matter,” he insisted.
Colón Ortiz reviewed before the governing board the progress made in repairing units in the various power plants.
For example, at the Aguirre Power Plant in Salinas, the repair of unit 1 continues, and PREPA is waiting for the materials requested from General Eléctric. The PREPA chief expects the unit to be ready by the end of April, at $18 million in repair costs.
Unit 2 at Aguirre was under repair but entered the system on March 4.
In Mayagüez, work continues on unit 3b, which was sent to a workshop in the United States. The unit should be ready by the end of April or the beginning of May, Colón Ortiz said.
At the San Juan Power Plant, workers finished the repair of unit 5, which went into service on March 2. Unit 9 is out of service and could be ready for restoration in April, while the repair of unit 7 is subject to the approval of the use of funds by the oversight board and the PREB.
“Most of these projects were committed by FEMA as part of the reconstruction and mitigation projects for the electrical system in Puerto Rico,” Colón Ortiz said.
The approval of the repair plans for units 8 and 10 at Central San Juan and unit 1 at Cambalache in Arecibo is still pending.
“We reaffirm that all three are still necessary for our electrical system,” Colón Ortiz said. “We are talking about almost 300 megawatts that would be available.”