2/20/2018 – Why does restoring full power in Puerto Rico seem like a never-ending task? | Puerto Rico to slash energy reserves amid cash shortfall – The Washington Post

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The Puerto Rico News & Times

Image: Municipal workers install power poles

Why does restoring full power in Puerto Rico seem like a never-ending task? – NBC News

Why does restoring full power in Puerto Rico seem like a never-ending task? | Puerto Rico to slash energy reserves amid cash shortfall – The Washington Post

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Mourning the government of Puerto Rico after deadly shooting in Florida
 

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In solidarity with the victims of the shooting in a school in Florida , Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevaresdecreed five days of mourning today .

According to the order issued, the flags in Puerto Rico will fly at half mast from today until Monday, February 19.

La medida la tomó el ejecutivo para unirse al decreto emitido por el presidente de los Estados Unidos, Donald Trump, en respeto y solidaridad con las víctimas del ataque perpetrado ayer en la escuela secundaria Marjory Stoneman Douglas en Parkland, Florida. En el mismo murieron 17 personas y otras 15 resultaron heridas.

The alleged perpetrator,  Nikolas Cruz, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder .

In reaction to the tragedy, Rossello Nevares said in a press release that “our prayers are with the families of the victims of this terrible attack and the affected community. We express our solidarity with the people of Florida in this moment of sadness. ”

The government of Puerto Rico and that of Florida, led by Rick Scott , maintain close ties of cooperation, especially after the devastating passage of Hurricane Maria on the island. As reported, over 300,000 Puerto Ricans have migrated to that state since last September.

Además, Scott se ha encargado personalmente de coordinar la ayuda que desde Florida se ha enviado a Puerto Rico como parte de los esfuerzos de recuperación.

Puerto Rico to slash energy reserves amid cash shortfall – The Washington Post
 

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February 18 at 6:47 PM

 Puerto Rico’s power company said Sunday that it will reduce its operating reserve to save money amid a cash shortfall as officials warned that the move could destabilize the U.S. territory’s fragile electrical grid.

William Rios, director of generation at Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority, said a plan to reduce its reserve by 450 megawatts will not affect customers and will help save $9 million a month.

Public Affairs Secretary Ramon Rosario said that although the measure is needed, it could affect a grid still experiencing frequent blackouts as nearly 250,000 customers remain without power more than five months after Hurricane Maria. The Category 4 storm destroyed two-thirds of the power distribution system and caused the longest blackout in U.S. history.

 

Why does restoring full power in Puerto Rico seem like a never-ending task?

 

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About a third of Puerto Rico’s residents — over 900,000 — are still living without electricity five months after Hurricane Maria battered the island on Sept. 20th of last year.

As power restoration efforts continue against all odds, it’s still hard for officials to say when the power will be fully restored — the question on everyone’s mind.

“I would hesitate to give you a date,” said Lt. Col. John Cunningham of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the deputy commander for the Task Force Power Restoration on the island. “We would like to go faster, but right now we’re going as fast as we can.”

“The largest challenge has been logistics: getting the materials we need,” Cunningham told NBC News. “Because it is a tropical island, they need specific conductors and materials that can resist the tropical weather and there’s a limited number of suppliers available to purchase specific materials for the island.”

Puerto Ricans are dying. These volunteers are trying to change that. 5:04

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After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, getting access to those materials is even harder.

About 1,200 temporary generators and seven microgrids are powering key areas near important buildings such as schools and hospitals. In addition, teams from utility companies from the mainland U.S. have made their way to Puerto Rico to support personnel sent to the island to help restore power.

After Hurricane Maria left the entire island without power, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, needed at least about 53,000 poles, a little over 17 million conductors and 184,750 insulators.

Related: Anger grows and hope fades as Puerto Rico’s ground zero remains without power

So far, 5,072 transformers have arrived in Puerto Rico in addition to about 31,500 poles and about 2,613 miles of conductor cables already on the island, PREPA said in a statement.

In the next two weeks, Puerto Rico should receive 80 containers with additional equipment.

Restoring power amid funding woes

One of the reasons for a lack of inventory in the first place is PREPA’s financial woes. While a Category 5 hurricane like Maria was expected to cause massive damage, Puerto Rico’s bankrupt and greatly indebted public utility had not kept up with upgrading and modernizing its four-decade-old power plants, which mostly produce energy from burning imported oil.

Puerto Rican government leaders went to federal court in New York on Thursday to request a $1 billion emergency loan to finance operational costs and avoid running out of cash. Though the request was not approved, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain gave Puerto Rico’s lawyers the chance to submit another motion for a $300 million emergency loan, understanding that “the lights cannot go off in Puerto Rico.” The motion was filed early Friday and Judge Swain approved it on Monday.

To reduce costs and avoid a shutdown, Puerto Rico has activated a contingency plan that consists of reducing power to energy reserves that handle generation failures like the one that took place on Feb. 12in northern Puerto Rico. Government officials said Sunday it should not affect customers.

PREPA is currently the government agency with the biggest share of Puerto Rico’s $72 billion public debt. In part, PREPA’s $9 billion debt is due to unpaid electricity bills from public entities in Puerto Rico.

Liquidity issues around Puerto Rico’s power company go back decades. Through Puerto Rico’s fiscal agency AAFAF, most PREPA projects get funded through the issuance of bonds.

Image: Municipal workers install power polesCritics say past projects illustrate a history of costly mistakes.

Francisco Lopez, an engineer and PREPA employee for 36 years and now an independent energy consultant, had pitched a project in 2010 called Via Verde that consisted of a natural gas pipeline across the island.

Because the governor at the time, Luis Fortuño, had signed an executive order declaring a “state of emergency” around electric power generation, the project was approved and bonds were issued before any public hearings.

Photos: 100 days in the dark leave Puerto Ricans with glimmer of hope

PREPA had done a study that showed that revenues from Via Verde would be enough to pay back bondholders. “It would have taken, like, five years,” said Lopez.

But the $350 million Via Verde project never came to life after strong opposition from community members and environmentalists. With no project, there was no revenue, but PREPA still had to pay bondholders back as well as the already-hired contractors. Lopez said situations like this have contributed to the utility’s debt.

Amid criticism, a promise to restore power

As PREPA grapples with financial issues, it has also faced strong questions about its actions following the hurricane.

A former supervisor and chemist at PREPA, Carlos Velez, was critical of the government’s initial handling of its equipment and restoration needs.

Related: FEMA under scrutiny over botched contract to provide meals for Puerto Rico

“In a situation where PREPA lacks inventory, the usual procedure is to ask the American Public Power Association (APPA) for what’s needed,” said Velez. APPA is a not-for-profit organization that serves U.S. public utilities; it has worked with PREPA on previous post-hurricane efforts.

Instead, PREPA came under fire after signing a $300 million contract with Whitefish, a small Montana-based firm. The contract was eventually terminated after questions emerged following a Washington Post report about the company and the contract.

Image: PUERTORICO-US-ELECTRICITYIt wasn’t until the end of October, more than a month after the hurricane, that APPA received Puerto Rico’s petition asking for help. It still remains unclear why APPA’s help was requested so late.

FEMA deputy administrator Ahsha Tribble, who has been working on the island for months, said in an Oversight Board hearing that PREPA’s bureaucracy has slowed down restoration efforts. “When you have eight layers of approval to get something done, it’s not working for us,” said Tribble.

PREPA has also been dealing with changing leadership. In November, its executive director Ricardo Ramos stepped down and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló called for Justo Gonzalez’s appointment as interim director.

“When you put an interim director in the middle of a disaster, it’s hard. It’s very difficult to begin to make decisions,” said Tribble.

The spotlight on PREPA after the devastating storm and the financial crisis may result in significant changes. Gov. Rosselló announced a plan last month to move toward privatizing the utility, pledging a more “financially viable,” consumer-centered model.

While there is debate over the plan, consumer watchdogs and analysts have long called for changes to PREPA. In addition, the utility’s finances and debt are now being scrutinized by a financial oversight board started under President Barack Obama as well as Judge Swain.

In the meantime, the start of the next hurricane season is just four months away.

“I want to assure all clients still without electricity, that we have you in mind. We know our work is not over and we are prioritizing restoration for this population,” said Justo Gonzalez, PREPA’s interim director, in a statement. “No one deserves to be without electricity, so we appreciate your patience. ”

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Head bowed, Florida shooting suspect returns to court for hearing

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Reuters) – A former student accused of last week’s deadly shooting at a Florida high school returned to court for a hearing on Monday in a case that has galvanized advocates of stricter gun control, including many of the rampage survivors.

Nikolas Cruz, his head bowed, hands shackled at his waist and wearing a red, jail-issued jumpsuit, showed no emotion during the procedural session in Fort Lauderdale.

The hearing ended with Broward Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer ruling that a defense motion filed last week remain sealed from public view. The content of the motion, sealed by another judge, was not described in the hearing.

In a second hearing, Broward Circuit Court Judge Charles Greene ordered the release of parts of a mental health assessment of Cruz by the Florida Department of Children and Families in November 2016. The report has already been leaked to South Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper.

Cruz, who did not attend the second hearing, is facing 17 counts of premeditated murder after the attack on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, near Fort Lauderdale. It is the deadliest shooting ever at a U.S. high school.

The suspect, whose mother died in November, was investigated by authorities after videos surfaced on the social media platform Snapchat showing him cutting himself, the assessment by the Department of Children and Families said.

“Mr. Cruz has fresh cuts on both his arms. Mr. Cruz stated he plans to go out and buy a gun. It is unknown what he is buying the gun for,” the released report said.

In a statement, department secretary Mike Carroll said the records showed Cruz was getting mental health services before, during and after the assessment. Cruz was living with his mother and attending school when it concluded, he said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has acknowledged it failed to act on a tip called in last month warning that Cruz possessed a gun and the desire to kill.

Greene agreed to the request by Cruz’s team of public defenders to release the assessment. But he stopped short of allowing the release of details of Cruz’s mental health history and child abuse records.

Student survivors gathered with teachers and gun safety advocates to plan a visit to the state capital of Tallahassee on Wednesday. They will demand state lawmakers enact a ban on the sale of assault weapons in Florida.

The White House said on Monday that President Donald Trump supports efforts to improve federal background checks for gun purchases. Trump angered some students by suggesting in a tweet on Saturday that the FBI had missed signs that the shooter was troubled because it was distracted by its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Frank McGurty and Ian Simpson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler

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Iran, Deeply Embedded in Syria, Expands Axis of Resistance
 

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But as the rebels have lost ground and no clear threats to Mr. Assad’s rule remain, Iran and its allies have stayed, shifting their focus to creating an infrastructure to threaten Israel, analysts say. Iran continues to train and equip fighters while strengthening ties with allies in Iraq and Lebanon, in hopes of building a united front in the event of a new war.

“The ultimate goal is, in the case of another war, to make Syria a new front between Israel, Hezbollah and Iran,” said Amir Toumaj, a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who studies Iran. “They are making that not just a goal, but a reality.”

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When will full power be restored in Puerto Rico? It will be 5 months tomorrow since #HurricaneMaria by @Nicolemarie_A https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/puerto-rico-crisis/why-does-restoring-full-power-puerto-rico-seem-never-ending-n847211 pic.twitter.com/o7VIwBdSE6
 

When will full power be restored in Puerto Rico? It will be 5 months tomorrow since  by https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/puerto-rico-crisis/why-does-restoring-full-power-puerto-rico-seem-never-ending-n847211 … 

 

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When will full power be restored in Puerto Rico? It will be 5 months tomorrow since #HurricaneMaria by @Nicolemarie_A https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/puerto-rico-crisis/why-does-restoring-full-power-puerto-rico-seem-never-ending-n847211 pic.twitter.com/o7VIwBdSE6
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When will full power be restored in Puerto Rico? It will be 5 months tomorrow since #HurricaneMaria by @Nicolemarie_A https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/puerto-rico-crisis/why-does-restoring-full-power-puerto-rico-seem-never-ending-n847211 pic.twitter.com/o7VIwBdSE6

When will full power be restored in Puerto Rico?

It will be 5 months tomorrow since  by https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/puerto-rico-crisis/why-does-restoring-full-power-puerto-rico-seem-never-ending-n847211 … 

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When will full power be restored in Puerto Rico? It will be 5 months tomorrow since #HurricaneMaria by @Nicolemarie_A https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/puerto-rico-crisis/why-does-restoring-full-power-puerto-rico-seem-never-ending-n847211 pic.twitter.com/o7VIwBdSE6
Head bowed, Florida shooting suspect returns to court for hearing – Reuters
How the FBI handled two tips related to Nikolas Cruz – USA TODAY
Family that took in Nikolas Cruz said he showed no warning signs – NBCNews.com
Laughing? Not so much. Most Russians just wish the election-tampering story would go away – Los Angeles Times
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