Lights remain out 2 months after hurricane

The restoration of power in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (USVI) is such a priority to the Trump administration that two months after Hurricane Maria, there is still very little electricity.

Ricardo Ramos, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Agency (PREPA), resigned a few days after he testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee about the controversial contract he approved with Whitefish Energy Holdings, a small Montana firm to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric grid.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz saying that Ramos ‘helped destroy the credibility of the PR government’ and she called him ‘a disgrace.’

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló recommended the appointment of engineer Justo González as his interim replacement at the public utility.

Shortly after PREPA reached a goal of restoring 50 percent of the island’s power, line failures reduced power generation to 22 percent.

Saturday’s announcement that the electrical system is registering 53.9 percent of power generation, is the highest percentage since the hurricane.

FEMA and federal agencies have installed 700 generators.

In addition, 8,755,488 gallons of fuel, 8,556,813 gallons of potable water, 44,933,016 liters of bottled water and 35,305,571 meals have been distributed.

The Department of Education reported that 1,052 schools will be open and offering classes after the passage of Hurricane Maria.

Secretary of Education Julia Keleher said that represents 87% of the total in Puerto Rico’s public school system.

Hurricane Irma struck Puerto Rico on September 6, which was followed by the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Maria, on September 20.

A non-profit organization as received more than $24 million in donations from at least 135,000 individuals and corporations but only $7 million has been used for relief efforts thus far.

“The lights remain off in bustling cities and in small rural villages. Gas generators, the only alternative to the downed power lines that seem to be everywhere, continuously hum outside hospitals and bodegas. When night falls, it’s the glow of car lights, not streetlights, that helps break through the darkness,” said an LA Times report published last week.

“Even in areas with power, such as the capital city of San Juan, residents must deal with daily blackouts,” according to the newspaper.

The lack of reliable electricity coupled with massive destruction to roads and bridges have led hundreds of thousands to flee Puerto Rico for the mainland U.S., and some economists predict decades of stagnation for an island that already was struggling financially.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced that the island, through the work of Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority, had restored power to 50% of the commonwealth.

Rossello has said the island will reach 80% generation by the end of November and 95% by mid-December — goals that some here have called unrealistic. By contrast, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that 75% of the island will regain power by the end of January.

Interior Secretary William Villafdañe announced the resignations of 9-1-1 emergency systems commissioner and the director of the Center for Municipal Revenue Collection (CRIM) Carmen Vega Forunier.

Federal authorities have been investigating the $300-million contract awarded to Whitefish Energy Holdings, a small company headquartered in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Montana hometown.

Whitefish Energy Holdings halted work to help restore power because the U.S. territory’s government failed to pay outstanding invoices on the $300 million contract that Rossello cancelled last month amid accusations of overcharging and incompetence.

The Associated Press obtained a letter signed by Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski and dated Nov. 19, saying that Puerto Rico’s government owes more than $83 million.

Even though the contract had been cancelled, both sides agreed Whitefish would remain in Puerto Rico until Nov. 30 to complete current projects.

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