WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 19, 2021)—today the  “United States Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez today announced that the recently issued $9.46 billion grant to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) can be used to build a more resilient and environmentally friendly electrical grid that simultaneously ensures Puerto Rico can be less energy import dependent and have cleaner air, according to a recent letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).”

“In response to our letter, FEMA says Puerto Rico can use these flexible funds to build a grid that supports renewable electricity generation and storage, micro-grids, and underground transmission lines,” said Schumer and Velázquez.

“For far too long Puerto Rico has had a poorly designed electrical grid that was completely dependent on dirty and expensive fossil fuels, including coal,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Much of that grid was destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria and must be rebuilt – but the right way. More than $9 billion in FEMA funds for reconstruction of its electrical grid presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build back Puerto Rico’s electrical grid to be more sustainable, reliable, and resilient using clean and renewable energy produced right on the island. I will continue to relentlessly support Puerto Rico in its ongoing recovery from past hurricanes, earthquakes and coronavirus to make the island cleaner, greener and more resilient for years to come.”

“I welcome this response from FEMA as the reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s power grid is one of the top priorities facing the Island. Ever since Hurricanes Maria and Irma destroyed much of the grid, I’ve been a staunch advocate for harnessing clean energy in this opportunity to rebuild. Relying on fossil fuels has always had a short fuse as the climate crisis lingers and time to take meaningful action runs dry. That is why it is so important that PREPA use this funding to build a more sustainable and resilient power grid that runs on renewable energy. I will continue to provide oversight in this process and I thank Senator Schumer for his partnership and advocacy in this effort,” said Congresswoman Velázquez.

The $9.46 billion grant was awarded to PREPA after FEMA worked closely with Puerto Rican officials and PREPA to assess the catastrophic damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. While this FEMA grant is long overdue, it provides critical funding to rebuild its electrical grid, as well as some of the telecommunications, generation, and water infrastructure in a way that is clean and resilient in the event of future storms and other disasters.

Puerto Rico is in desperate need of clean and reliable energy. Currently, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, “most electricity on the island is generated from old oil-burning power plants fed by expensive imports, then transported by a fragile, decrepit delivery system. The poor design, with heavy reliance on fossil fuels, adds to high electricity costs and air pollution that harms people’s health.” Presently, Puerto Rico’s electricity is generated from oil, coal and gas. The Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that Hurricane Maria destroyed almost 80% of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. Therefore, Puerto Rico has a critical chance to rebuild its grid, almost in its entirety, in accordance with reliable and renewable technology available at home and depart from fossil fuels, the lawmakers added.

Last November, Puerto Rico local legislator Néstor Alonso was arrested under corruption charges  on  after winning a re-election. He faces nine charges, including federal money theft and receiving kickbacks. Alonso is accused of more than doubling the salary of an employee and demanding half in return. He pocketed at least $40,000 from 2018, according to officials. A member of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP), Alonso is the third local legislator this year to face corruption allegations. Alonso has served the House of Representatives since 2016, and was the first blind person elected for that position. Head of PNP, Pedro Pierluisi, who is now leading the governor’s race, asked Alonso to resign immediately on the same day, tweeting that in his government “there will not be space nor tolerance for corruption.” Alonso pleaded not guilty.

Source: Senator Chuck Schumer

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