Velázquez, Grijalva fight to retain independence of P.R. energy commission
In a letter to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and the Chairman of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, two Congressional lawmakers called for the protection of the Puerto Rico Energy Commission from efforts to weaken or undermine its jurisdiction by consolidating it with other agencies or by privatizing the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and exempting PREPA from PREC’s supervision.
“Since its creation in 2014, the PREC has ordered greater investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and demand response; chaired the first rate case and approved the first integrated resources plan in PREPA’s history; ordered procurement measures to further prevent ‘Whitefish-like’ situations; saved energy consumers more than $700 million when it denied a rate hike proposal in 2015; exposed PREPA’s mismanagement and poor budgetary controls; and drafted the first regulation for privately owned microgrids in Puerto Rico,” the letter signed by Reps. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) and Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), the Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, read.
The Congressional lawmakers cited several measures — Senate Bill 860 and its companion, House Bill 1481 — in their claims that the Puerto Rico government is looking to reduce the PREC’s authority.
The bills would establish an Energy Department, headed by five commissioners, under the oversight of the proposed three-member Public Service Regulatory Board. The Board would have the ability to modify or reverse decisions of the energy commissioners.
“Actions to weaken the independence of the PREC illustrate, once again, the longstanding practices of the political interference in PREPA that has hindered electrical reform in Puerto Rico… we expect you to ensure that existing regulatory oversight and independence remain untouched, and if anything, they are strengthened,” the letter also addresses to Oversight Board Chair José Carrión further noted.
“The rationale for prioritizing energy regulatory consolidation at this time is counterintuitive. There are still hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans without power; to subsume energy regulation into a larger agency that will inevitably have other priorities does not appear to give the electrical system the urgency it demands,” the lawmakers stated in the letter.