Five years after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, Hurricane Fiona landed on the island, leaving residents without power during an extreme weather emergency that saw torrential rain and flooding.
More than 3 million people have lost electricity due to Hurricane Fiona. Despite Hurricane Fiona making landfall as a Category 1 storm, none of this comes as a surprise. Power outages have become an everyday occasion even when extreme weather events aren’t present.
When Maria hit, the government-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority owned and operated the power network. PREPA has been extensively criticized for inadequate investments, poor management, and corruption. In response to Maria, Congress earmarked $10 billion through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to rebuild Puerto Rico’s devastated power grid. Those projects were contracted out to the private Canadian-American consortium LUMA Energy for overseas transmission and distribution for an annual fee of $115 million.
Since then, residents have seen the situation worsen, with blackouts and brownouts occurring more frequently and for prolonged periods of time. The company also faces widespread labor abuse accusations and appears to have no interest in investing in renewable energy.
LUMA Energy has raised energy prices seven times, and Puerto Ricans (43% of whom live below the poverty line) pay more than double the average rate for electricity than the rest of the U.S.
Last summer, organizations in Puerto Rico and the Diaspora called on President Biden to take action. Along with an investigation into the LUMA Energy contract, the groups also called for your administration to ensure that federal funds are used in accordance with federal and local policies that promote moving away from fossil fuels, advancing the use of renewable energy, protecting workers’ rights, and improving the health of people and the environment.
Puerto Rico has the right to a resilient, citizen-based and environmentally sound electricity system. President Biden, please take action to address Puerto Rico's power grid failures. This cannot continue. The people of Puerto Rico deserve better.
▶ First sent on September 21, 2022 by Jess Craven