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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Senate passes bill to compensate customers who suffer losses due to lack of electricity service

By John McPhaul

The Senate of Puerto Rico approved Senate Bill 845, which amends the Energy Transformation and RELIEF Act so that the Independent Consumer Protection Office (ICPO) represents customers who suffer losses associated with lack of electric service.

The bill authored by Arecibo District Senator Elizabeth Rosa Vélez allows the ICPO to file complaints, legal appeals and claims in the General Court of Justice and federal courts on behalf of clients.

“This measure seeks to do justice to the thousands of Puerto Ricans who suffer losses of their appliances, among others, due to the lack of electricity. The country is witnessing the constant blackouts and interruptions in the service that the country is experiencing due to the instability and fragility of the system.

Once converted into law, this project will allow citizens to have an entity that represents them before the courts and does them justice for the loss incurred,” Rosa announced.

The piece of legislation will amend Article 6.42 of the Law so that OIPC also participates or appears as a petitioning or intervening party in any legal action and on behalf of clients.

“This amendment does justice to consumers who on multiple occasions lack the resources to charge for the services and appliances they lost due to voltage drops, service interruptions and blackouts. In addition, it will facilitate them in the bureaucratic process of claims implemented by the Electric Power Authority and now Luma Energy.”

The ICPO is currently responsible for guiding, educating, informing and assisting clients about their rights and responsibilities.

“Once the measure becomes law, it will allow the office to request the corresponding compensation.” Rosa Vélez, who is also the Chair of the Senate’s Innovation, Telecommunications, Urbanism and Infrastructure Committee, called on house legislators to approve the measure in order to pass it to the governor’s signature and thereby do justice to the customers of the electric power system who she described “are the most affected.” He also said that the measure serves as an incentive in the face of the difficult economic situation faced by Puerto Rican families.

Called for LUMA Energy to hire 500 new power linemen

Meanwhile, the representative of the New Progressive Party (NPP), Víctor Parés Otero, called on Tuesday for LUMA Energy to hire 500 new power linemen before completing their contract on November 30.

In Puerto Rico, linemen are needed, said the legislator. In the four-year period from 2009 to 2012, when engineer Josué Colón headed the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), there were over 1,100 linemen to address system problems throughout the island., he said “Today that figure is only about 430. There is no doubt that the hiring of more linemen is urgent. We call on the company LUMA Energy to accelerate the hiring of linemen with the aim that by the end of November we will have more than 900 working,” said the representative for District 4 of San Juan in a written statement.

“We understand the complexity of the issue and recognize efforts such as the implementation of programs for women linemen, something that has not happened since 2015. But we need more. These people (linemen) are the ones who repair the breakdowns, who work, along with the rest of the brigade, with the fallen poles and work with the lines. They are vital to the electrical system. That is why we urge the hiring of 500 additional guards,” he added.

“During the four-year period from 2013 to 2016, PREPA averaged about 128 service interruptions every day of at least one-hour duration. It is enough to check the pages of the newspapers of general circulation of those times to realize the disaster that existed. That has dropped dramatically to less than 30. With the new linemen that number will be reduced even more,” he said.

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