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New York AG Pushes for US Probe of Power Debacle in Puerto Rico

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday called for a federal investigation into Luma Energy, the private operator of Puerto Rico’s power grid, after billions of dollars in US aid failed to prevent chronic outages and an island-wide blackout from a hurricane this week.

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In a letter to US Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell and Richard Glick, chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, James questioned how the federal money was spent.

“There are many serious questions into LUMA’s planning, preparation, and investment,” James wrote in the letter. “The federal government has provided significant resources to build a resilient and more reliable transmission and distribution system. Yet, it appears these funds have not been deployed as effectively as possible.”

Puerto Rico’s aging electrical grid is vulnerable to severe weather and residents have some of the most unreliable and expensive electricity in the US. About 1.3 million customers were still without power on Tuesday after Hurricane Fiona caused devastating rain and flooding on Sunday.

Puerto Rico Utility Gets More Mediation With Hearing Postponed

FEMA Assistant Administrator for Recovery Keith Turi said it was too soon to be considering an investigation.

“We are two days from the impact of Fiona,” he said during a press conference. FEMA is “supporting life-saving measures in Puerto Rico right now and that’s going to be our vision looking forward.”

Since Hurricane Maria’s direct hit on Puerto Rico in September 2017, the federal government has approved $9.5 billion to repair the system, but only about $40 million has been disbursed, according to FEMA Associate Administrator Anne Bink. Luma began operating the power grid in June 2021, with the pledge to put those federal funds to work.

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