New York - When the idea of privatizing the generation system of the Electric Power Authority (PREPA) is taking off and 30 percent of the island's residents still have no electricity, today in New York, the Board will hear to 17 experts summoned to debate about the future of that public corporation.
The session, which starts at 10:00 a.m. Puerto Rico time (9:00 am in New York) and will last almost all day, will be divided into three panels that will deal with the long process PREPA had for the "recovery and restoration" of the electricity service, its possibilities of "transformation and long-term vision", and "new technologies".
The objective is to listen to ideas prior to the approval, February 23, about the new fiscal plan of PREPA. "We have been saying for a long time that a complete transformation of the operations and finance of PREPA is necessary," said Board President José Carrión III.
Noel Zamot, coordinator of Revitalization of the Board, will be the moderator. The executive director of the Board, Natalie Jaresko, will give the opening message.
Ramón Luis Nieves, former president of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, considers that the Board "wants to open the new Puerto Rican energy model for discussion."
The session, which was planned a few weeks ago, was scheduled after Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced on January 22 that his government will begin the process towards the privatization of power generation assets of PREPA, which public debt is being discussed in the bankruptcy court created by the PROMESA Law and presided over by Judge Laura Taylor Swain.
The hearing will also allow to know the most recent data on the restoration of the power grid, which 134 days after Hurricane Maria keeps almost a third of the population with no service.
In that sense, the presentation of the deputy commander of the Southwest Division of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, Colonel Donavan Ollar, and the deputy administrator of FEMA for region 9 -which includes the Pacific territories-, Asha Tribble, will be a reminder that the emergency in Puerto Rico has not ended.
When Congress approved the PROMESA Law, which imposed the Board and allows restructuring a large part of the public debt, it established that its Revitalization Coordinator -in charge of critical projects- will be able to examine projects that "contribute to the transition towards privatized generation capacities In Puerto Rico".
From Congress, Republican Rob Bishop (Utah), chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, has already called for the Board and Governor Rosselló to integrate creditors into the discussion on the privatization of PREPA assets.
"All parties have to be included," agreed Resident Commissioner in Washington, Jenniffer González, who "understands" Bishop's concern and has also defended the governor's decision to start now with the privatization of areas of the public company, despite the requests of funds to rebuild and modernize PREPA.
Gonzalez met with Carrión in Washington on Tuesday.
Rosselló said that creditors will have the opportunity to learn about the privatization plans through the restructuring process in the bankruptcy court.
Former senator Nieves thinks that "all the parties are clear on how much of the decision (on privatization has to go through the evaluation of the court"), where he foresees a strong debate between government and creditors.
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