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*Reuters 2017 (Trump is Right): The Bankrupt Utility behind Puerto Rico’s Power Crisis … before Hurricane Maria

Posted by FactReal on September 13, 2018

In October 2017, Reuters reported on the chronic problems at Puerto Rico’s electric company, PREPA, which “left the island’s electric grid vulnerable to collapse in a major storm.”

This 2017 Reuters report substantiates Trump’s comments that Puerto Rico’s power grid was “poorly maintained, corruptly managed” before being hit by Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Here is part of Reuters report [1]: [Emphasis added]

Special Report: The bankrupt utility behind Puerto Rico’s power crisis
Nick Brown, Robin Respaut, Jessica Resnick-Ault

SALINAS, Puerto Rico/NEW YORK (Reuters) – In the rural village of Salinas in southern Puerto Rico, frayed electric lines hanging from a utility pole blew in the breeze last week near the town square.

But the damage didn’t come from Hurricane Maria.

“Those wires were actually there before,” said Fermin Seda, 68, a Salinas resident who said he has grown accustomed to downed lines and power outages.


Restoring the grid after the worst storm to hit here in nine decades would be a monumental task even for a well-run utility. It will be much harder for the chronically underfunded Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which went bankrupt in July amid mounting maintenance problems, years-long battles with creditors, a shrinking workforce and frequent management turnover.


“If you have an old grid susceptible to collapse, there is no way – until you change it completely – that it can sustain the winds of a Category 4, or even really a Category 2,” the governor [Ricardo Rossello] said.


A host of chronic problems at PREPA left the island’s electric grid vulnerable to collapse in a major storm, Reuters found. They include:

* Frequent turnover in management and board leadership, which has long failed to prioritize grid maintenance, according to reports prepared in 2015 and 2016 for utility regulators by the consultancy Synapse Energy Associates. The deferred upkeep, according to a PREPA assessment in April, led to a “degraded and unsafe” grid that needed at least $4 billion for modernization of an “isolated system, in challenging terrain” that is “subject to natural atmospheric events.”

* Falling revenues that failed to cover operating expenses because of poor collection of utility bills and declining energy sales through a decade-long recession.

* A lack of regulatory oversight prior to 2014, and a rough transition of power from former utility board members and officials to a new energy commission created that year by legislation, with little handoff of disaster-preparedness plans.

* A staff diminished from 8,628 workers in 2012 to 6,042 this year, according to the April PREPA report. The talent drain reflects a larger exodus of residents from Puerto Rico – especially skilled workers – as the U.S. territory lost 300,000 people, or 8 percent of its populace, between 2010 and 2016, according to U.S. Census data.

Ricardo Ramos, who took over as the utility’s chief executive in March, told Reuters that the number of employee departures over the past five years is actually closer to 4,000 – with the vast majority being key operational workers such as linemen, power plant operators and mechanics.

They were exactly the kind of workers the utility couldn’t afford to lose.

“PREPA did not invest in new power plants or new generation, so our power plants are very, very old; our distribution system is very, very old,” Ramos said in an interview on Monday. […]

Citizens of Puerto Rico do not receive services equal to U.S. states but also do not pay federal income tax. […]

The lengthy electrical outages are a bitter pill for storm victims, who before Maria had already endured frequent service interruptions and rates higher than any U.S. state except Hawaii, according to PREPA and the U.S. Energy Department. […]


On the south side of Puerto Rico, near most of the island’s power plants, broken wires and blackouts were common before Maria. […]

The amount of time power plants were down due to unplanned outages, measured in megawatt hours, more than doubled between mid-2015 and mid-2016, according to Synapse, the consultant firm.

By summer 2016, residents were experiencing four to five times the number of outages as the average U.S. customer, the consultants wrote.

The system’s deficiencies were laid bare in September 2016, when a transformer fire knocked out half of the island’s power, which wasn’t fully restored for nearly a week, forcing the governor to declare a state of emergency.

“Basically it was what you can call an unfortunate set of events, but really it is what I have said since I began at PREPA: lack of maintenance,” Ramos said.

One of the biggest factors in the outages: a constantly shrinking staff, driven away by costly medical benefits and unsafe conditions. The utility’s April report notes PREPA had a greater-than-average number of safety incidents for U.S. utilities, with more than 14,000 accidents and 15 fatalities in a 10-year period.

[1] Reuters Special Report: The bankrupt utility behind Puerto Rico’s power crisis

ABC NEWS 2017 (Trump is Right): Puerto Rico Power Grid Falling Apart before Maria Hit
Washington Post 2017 (Trump is Right): Hurricane Maria’s Blow to Puerto Rico’s Bankrupt Utility and Fragile Electric Grid
LA TIMES 2017 (Trump is Right): Puerto Rico’s Power Grid on Life Support long before the 2017 Hurricanes

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