Tag Archives: Hurricane Maria

Instability Mounts in Puerto Rico Amid Privatization Efforts and Power Authority’s Cash Shortfall

“If this is not disaster economics and this is not setting the stage for commercialization of services that are there to promote equality, I don’t know what is.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-19-2018

Many rural areas in Puerto Rico remain without power, and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said Monday that privatization has directly resulted in delays to restoration. (Photo: Western Area Power/Flickr/cc)

As nearly 250,000 Puerto Ricans remain without power five months after Hurricane Maria struck the island territory—the longest blackout in U.S. history—the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) said Sunday it will reduce its operating reserve to save money, as the island’s government moves toward privatizing the authority.

A federal judge denied PREPA a $1 billion loan over the weekend, saying the authority could not prove it needed the additional cash injection. The company will now reduce its reserve by 450 megawatts, saving $9 million per month but likely resulting in more power outages. Continue reading


‘Can You Say Corruption?’ Puerto Rico Contract for Trump-Connected Raises Concerns

Tiny company financed by a major donor to the Trump campaign and the Republican Party awarded no-bid contract to rebuild energy grid

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-24-2017

Puerto Rico’s electricity utility, PREPA, offered a $300 million contract to a small private firm to repair its power grid. Whitefish Energy is funded by a major Trump donor. (Photo: Whitefish Energy/Twitter)

Critics raised suspicions on Tuesday over a $300 million no-bid contract that was awarded to a small, two-year-old private energy company to restore Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. The company is financed by a major donor to the Trump campaign and the Republican Party, and also has connections to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Whitefish Energy, based in Whitefish, Montana, had only two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico over a month ago, leaving about 75 percent of the island still without power.

State utilities on the U.S. mainland have helped power authorities like Puerto Rico’s recover quickly from disasters like Maria in the past through mutual aid agreements, leaving many to wonder why Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) would rely on a company that has no experience with extensive restoration projects.

“The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why PREPA would go to Whitefish,” said Susan F. Tierney, a former Energy Department official, in an interview with the Washington Post.

As the Daily Beast reported, Federal Election Commission filings show that the founder of the private equity firm that finances Whitefish Energy donated $20,000 to a pro-Trump PAC during the 2016 election as well as more than $30,000 to the Republican National Committee.

The company is also run by a contact of Zinke’s—Andy Techmanski—who once hired the Interior Secretary’s son for a summer job. Zinke is from Whitefish, but his office told the Post that he only knows Techmanski because “everybody knows everybody” in the small town.

Whitefish has hired nearly 300 workers from across the country so far to help repair the infrastructure. According to Aaron C. Davis, investigative reporter for the Post, the company is charging PREPA hundreds of dollars per hour for their subcontractors’ work, far more than average rates.

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Promoting Renewable Future, Solar Companies and Nonprofits Rush to Puerto Rico

Several groups and companies have launched initiatives to aid the storm-ravaged island’s recovery and its long-term resilience

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-13-2017

Tech leaders and solar companies are coming together to promote rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid with renewable energy technology. (Photo: SolarCity)

As Congress on Thursday approved a $5 billion loan that will further burden the already bankrupt U.S. territory, various solar companies and nonprofits continued working together to offer aid to the storm-ravaged island while also promoting a more sustainable future and resilient energy system.

On Thursday, the nonprofit Empowered By Light and Sunrun—the nation’s largest residential solar company—partnered with local leaders to install a 4kW solar array with battery storage at the Barrio Obrero fire station in San Juan. A second system will be installed at another fire station on Friday. Continue reading


While Trump Stokes Division, Warnings Against Ignoring Ongoing Crisis in Puerto Rico

“The fact that within the last 48hrs Trump has made taking a knee for the anthem more important than the lives in Puerto Rico makes me so sad.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-24-2017

Photo: @BamaStephen/Twitter

“No matter what crazy stuff Trump is up to now let’s keep in mind Puerto Rico really needs our attention and help.”

Those are the words of Mark Ruffalo this weekend as the actor and social justice activist echoed the concerns of many that the president’s incendiary comments over recent days are serving to distract people from the severe crisis in the U.S. island territory, where power remains out for much of the island and residents are growing increasingly worried over the scale of the damage left by Hurricane Maria. Continue reading