Resident commissioner seeks congressional hearing on lack of progress with power grid rebuild
By The Star Staff
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón has asked Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who chairs the Committee on Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives, to summon the main members of Puerto Rico’s energy utility to a hearing to provide answers as to why they have been too slow in the task of rebuilding and restructuring the island’s electrical grid.
González Colón made the request after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said in a statement that after allocating over $9.6 billion in 2020 to make the energy grid resilient, neither the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) nor LUMA Energy have submitted for FEMA’s evaluation any transmission and distribution (T&D) project proposals. The two entities have submitted proposals for five generation projects and five projects related to substations.
González Colón said LUMA, a Canadian American consortium that is in charge of the island’s T&D system, and PREPA, which is not overseeing proposed new generation projects as those are being managed by an independent contractor per orders from the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB), must be held accountable for the lack of urgency in the task of restructuring the energy network.
“Last September 20, I convened the entire energy component, with only the private component attending, so that all parties could talk to each other, learn about the status of the system’s reconstruction work, and commit to establishing joint action plans,” the resident commissioner said in a written statement. “Then a meeting was held with the public sector on the occasion of having called a congressional hearing and by that date, October 6, 2021, according to FEMA, no project for transmission and distribution had been received and this continues to be the case.”
“After the disasters, I secured and advocated for access to $9.6 billion through FEMA and $1.9 billion in CDBG-DR [Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery] funds for energy issues, for a total of $11.5 billion,” González Colón said. “There is no excuse that we do not have the resources to modernize the system because the money is there. There is no sense of urgency and the parties must be held accountable for the delay in the use of federal funds.”
The resident commissioner requested that PREPA, LUMA Energy Corp., the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3), the PREB, FEMA and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity, be summoned to a hearing in Congress to explain what work has been done, what is being done and what is projected, what is needed and what is missing so that results can be seen soon.
“These entities must be held accountable and provide answers to the people of Puerto Rico, who want to know how and when they will be able to see results,” González Colón said. “These entities must answer to Congress about their plans, specific challenges, if any, and what is holding back the recovery. In these cases, the least that the people expect is that the officials responsible listen and take immediate action. To say that leaving all of Puerto Rico without electricity is ‘positive’ because it is reported in the national media seems wrong and unfortunate to me. People must be respected by [officials] speaking clearly, telling things as they are, with evidence of what has been worked on.”