The state of courts in Puerto Rico after Maria
Ever since Hurricane Maria, the judicial system in Puerto Rico has been otherwise occupied, no longer focusing on a large number of cases that deal with PROMESA and the issues that have arisen from that.
On October 25, 2017, the judge who currently presides over the majority of cases that deal with bankruptcy and similar issues approved the commonwealth’s stipulations for using FEMA relief funds to help Puerto Rico rebuild after Hurricane Maria. The money is to be used solely for cleanup efforts. This helps clear the path to rebuild by legally allowing them to accept federal dollars without too many issues afterwards.
On the issue of legality and rebuilding Puerto Rico, the contract to Whitefish Energy Holdings has raised some eyebrows. People have speculated as to how a small Montana firm was awarded the $300 million contract to help restore the islands’ power. After the contract was initially announced, several members of Congress have called for a probe into how the two-year old company won it. San Juan’s mayor urged them to reconsider the contract as to stop any legal concerns. Puerto Rico eventually canceled the Whitefish contract. The Puerto Rico Financial Oversight and Management Board announced recently, that retired Air Force Col. Noel Zamot will be placed in charge of power reconstruction. There is still some suspicion as to why the contract was awarded in the first place. It has yet to be seen whether or not the investigation will continue and if anything will come as a result of it.
There have been some more issues concerning the legality of reconstruction. The Puerto Rico Energy Commission filed a motion in federal court on Friday asking a judge to clarify the commission’s regulatory power over the islands’ public utility as federal officials move to take a bigger role in the rebuild of the island’s grid.
There has been a lot of concern surrounding what the islands are legally allowed to do and what they have the financial ability for. The federal court in Puerto Rico is expected to have to deal with several other cases dealing with reconstruction and funding.