PREPA workers protest anticipated bill hikes
By The Star Staff
Active and retired employees of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) stationed themselves Monday morning at various bridges and highway overpasses in San Juan, Ponce, Mayagüez, Caguas, Yauco, Arecibo and Carolina, where they displayed banners condemning alleged rate hikes contemplated under the contract with the utility’s transmission and distribution operator, Luma Energy.
“We condemn the rate increase that will come from the disastrous Luma Energy contract with the Electric Power Authority, an increase that could come as soon as December of this year,” said Humberto Morales, president of the Antonio Lucchetti Autonomous District (DAAL by its Spanish initials), in written remarks. “Today, we show again our outrage at this and other bad terms that the contract has for the people of Puerto Rico.”
The Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union (UTIER by its Spanish acronym), the Unsecured Creditors Committee and fuel line lenders last week asked for a postponement until September of a request by PREPA to give payment priority status to some $136 million the authority will pay Luma in front-end transition costs. PREPA entered into a contract with Luma Energy on June 22 to manage its transmission and distribution system as well as customer service and billing operations. Under the contract, Luma can request budget and rate adjustments. The first rate adjustment petition could come as early as December but will have to go through the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau.
Luma Energy President Wayne Stensby said he does not foresee rate changes and that the company will do everything possible “to pay for ourselves.” He said UTIER is trying to misinform the public.
PREPA employees invited everyone to join them on Wednesday in front of PREPA headquarters in Santurce to condemn the Luma Energy contract and request its cancellation.
“This Wednesday we will meet in front of the PREPA building to, in a forceful way, reject this contract that, in addition to increasing power rates, violates various laws and public policies, costs the people of Puerto Rico $125 million annually and pays Luma executives up to $325 an hour,” said Johny Rodríguez, president of the PREPA Retirees Association.
The Alliance of Active Employees and Retirees of PREPA is made up of UTIER and its retirees chapter, the PREPA Management Employees Association, the PREPA Union of Independent Professional Employees, the PREPA Retirees Association and the DAAL.