• The Star Staff

PREPA says ‘terrorism’ responsible for Tuesday’s blackout; UTIER president reacts

By John McPhaul


Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) Executive Director José Ortiz said Wednesday that he has referred to the federal Department of Homeland Security the incident that caused the mega blackout at 3 p.m. on Tuesday and resulted in the temporary shutdown of the EcoEléctrica generator in Peñuelas.

“This is internal terrorism,” Ortiz said in a radio interview. “Electric power systems, like water systems, are protected by Homeland Security. So this is [a case for] direct federal intervention to evaluate all this data that we collected yesterday and that we are collecting today.”

The PREPA executive director said one or more people intentionally shut down the system for the high-voltage lines, causing the blackout.

“I think there is enough evidence. There is video evidence. I believe that this [mischief] must end,” Ortiz said, referring to situations in the past in which electric power service has shut down in the middle of press conferences.

On the same topic, Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union (UTIER) President Ángel R. Figueroa Jaramillo challenged Ortiz to make the aforementioned statements under oath.

“What he has to explain to the country is how he told the country last night that he had found nothing and at dawn [Wednesday] they were able to find what they did not find during the day [on Tuesday],” Figueroa Jaramillo said. “How come last night in front of the governor he could not show her, he could not tell the country what he alleges he found today?”

The union leader contended that if the protection system was manually turned off, the transmission line could not function as Ortiz alleged at a Tuesday evening press conference.

At the press conference, Ortiz said that in the investigation conducted after the event no situation was found that would lead to the lines going down.

“The event that caused the generators to shut down was not detected anywhere,” Ortiz said at the press conference. “There was no break, there was nothing that led to that mentioned. The condition that was at some point did not appear.”

“An analysis is going to be made of what caused it and it must be seen that another condition could have existed, but there is no condition; therefore, that is why the system has continued to operate,” the PREPA chief added.

Ortiz said Wednesday that the event -- which he said creates “suspicion” -- started in the Mora area of Isabela. Supposedly, three high-voltage lines running from Arecibo and Mayagüez to the EcoEléctrica cogenerator in Peñuelas stopped working. The failure in the lines caused EcoEléctrica to shut down. He said PREPA engineers inspected the lines by helicopter and by land.

“We patrolled all the lines and not a single problem was found,” Ortiz said. “All of those lines are up and running an hour after the event. Something quite strange happened; we are analyzing the situation with a lot of suspicion.”

The PREPA chief did not want to say what suspicion the event creates. The transmission lines in question are supervised by management employees from PREPA’s offices in barrio Monacillo in RÍo Piedras.

However, Figueroa Jaramillo said the event that caused the blackout at 3:12 p.m. Tuesday began at 2 p.m. when “breakers” 80 and 90 of the 230-kilowatt line 50,500 in Mayagüez went out. At the same time, that breaker tripped breaker 40 of line 50,500 in Mora TC in Isabela.

At press time, Figuerao Jaramillo informed that the blackout was caused by a tree and not by a ‘terrorist’, like Ortiz assumed.

“They (PREPA) have sent brigades to two sectors where they have identified unhooking (of trees) areas, one in Aguadilla and the other in Mayagüez between towers 31 and 32. If once these areas are unhooked, that the information we have is that they are critical, and it is done test the line and the line test correctly, it is more than evident that the reason for the line not entering service was a disengagement problem, contrary to what the executive director told the country this morning (Wednesday) publicly,” Figueroa Jaramillo said at a press conference.

Ortiz did not comment on the UTIER president’s observation.

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