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Environmental, community organizations challenge Prepa debt plan

A collective of eight environmental and community organizations has announced plans to challenge the debt adjustment plan of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) in federal court. The group argues that the plan hinders the transition to distributed renewable energy, making it a more expensive option, is not economically viable and contravenes the island’s public energy policy.

The organizations will argue in court that the debt adjustment plan “violates Puerto Rico’s Energy Public Policy because it interferes with PREPA’s obligation to eliminate power generation through the burning of fossil fuels.”

The arguments, the collective adds, have been backed by the findings of Dr. Agustín Irizarry Rivera, a renewable energy systems expert. The engineer concluded that the legacy charge that the Financial Oversight and Management Board seeks to implement through the debt adjustment plan would create an energy burden for Puerto Ricans. He claimed that “the proposed legacy charge would penalize consumers who have adopted renewable energy production through net metering, making solar energy on rooftops more costly.”

Attorney Laura B. Arroyo, from Earthjustice, stated that “the costly burden imposed by the Plan on the people, businesses, and institutions of Puerto Rico violates Puerto Rico’s Energy Public Policy and other related legislative mandates by penalizing residential solar energy and posing an obstacle to energy transition in Puerto Rico.”

The organizations said the Public Energy Policy Law of Puerto Rico stipulates that 40% of power generation must come from renewable energy sources by 2025, 60% by 2040, and 100% by 2050. As a result, they argue, sources of energy from coal and other fossil fuels must be eliminated.

Ernaliz Vázquez, from the Sierra Club, warned that the plan could not be confirmed because the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau is the only entity with the legal authority to approve the legacy charge, not the oversight board in the proposed plan.

The energy in Puerto Rico “must be universally accessible and therefore affordable for all Puerto Ricans. This goal would be compromised if the current Debt Adjustment Plan is signed. This is of great importance because Puerto Rico is experiencing one of the most critical moments in history,” said Julia Mignucci, from Mayagüezanos for Health and the Environment Inc.

According to Ruth “Tata” Santiago, from the Environmental Dialogue Committee, the plan is unviable, as the economic burden would cause people who can to disconnect partially or totally from the power grid. This, in turn, would lead to the inevitable collapse of Prepa’s income and consequently, the inability to pay off the debt.

Mirna Conty, from Friends of the Guaynabo River Inc., stressed that the “Court must ensure that the Plan that gets approved… does not hinder the transition to distributed solar energy with storage… and does not impose an additional economic burden on the pockets of Puerto Ricans.”

Besides the aforementioned, the collective of organizations challenging the plan also includes the Williamsburg Bridge Inc.-Latino Climate Action Link, the Yabucoa Committee for Quality of Life Inc., the Southeast Community Environmentalist Alliance, Sierra Club Puerto Rico, the Anti-Incineration Organizations Coalition, and Friends of the Guaynabo River.

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