Ongoing power outages in Puerto Rico garner federal attention

by | May 22, 2018 | Congress | Comments

On Wednesday April 18, the lights went out across Puerto Rico in an all-too similar pattern that has held since Hurricane Maria struck in September 2017. The power outage was caused by a subcontractor operating in the southeast on behalf of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the islands’ principal electric utility. That same subcontractor was responsible for an outage the week before that kept over 800,000 customers in the dark.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló expressed his distaste in a tweet, calling on PREPA to cancel its contract with the subcontractor, noting that the same operator had been responsible for two outages in less than two weeks.

The governor was not the only politician from the island that expressed disappointment with the outage. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz tweeted frustration with the difficulties of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid early Wednesday morning. In her tweet, she bemoans a return to September 20, referencing the day that Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico. Beyond the issue of the resilience of the electric grid, Mayor Yulin Cruz articulated a fear that the recovery efforts will not be completed in time for the upcoming end-of-summer hurricane season.

At the federal level, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts called the the power outages as being “out of control” and appealed to the Trump administration to take responsibility for the issues plaguing the millions of US citizens living on the island. Senator Warren notes that she will continue to work with her congressional allies to “get answers” for the people of Puerto Rico.

All things considered, 96% of Puerto Rico has had its power restored. However, that means that there are between 100,000 and 200,000 people on the island that have not had power since Hurricane Maria made landfall last September. Over 3.4 billion customer-hours have been lost in Puerto Rico as part of the blackout that followed Maria, making this the largest blackout in US history and second in the world.