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Sanders Is Proposing Plan To Turn Puerto Rican Crisis Into Sustainability Opportunity

by Countable | 11.29.17

What’s the story?

Continuing struggles in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to recover from the complete decimation of infrastructure have found a new champion. Bernie Sanders, reports the Washington Post, unveiled a massive plan Tuesday to address Puerto Rico’s debt and rebuild infrastructure on both islands.

The plan is being co-sponsored by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA) Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Kamala D. Harris (D-CA). It has also been endorsed by 73 different liberal and labor organizations, as well as the mayor of San Juan, PR, Carmen Yulín Cruz.

Why does it matter?

The $146 billion plan dwarfs both the administration’s plan, which involved $29 billion in aid to be shared by Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas, and the plan proposed by Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló, which involved a request for $94 billion.

Highlights of the massive plan include:

  • $62 billion to help the cash-strapped Puerto Rican government

  • $51 billion for economic development

  • $27 billion for infrastructure, including $13 billion for new energy infrastructure across both islands

  • $428 million in grants for homeowners and cities for solar panels and microturbines

  • $40 million for grants to improve home energy efficiency

Even for some Puerto Rican officials who would welcome the investment in recovery, the plan’s requirement that utilities not be privatized is controversial. Currently, all power in Puerto Rico is provided by the state-owned utility company, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).

Officials are already receiving assistance from private companies to install solar panels and microgrids in remote sections of the island. They hope that competition created by actually selling off parts of the grid to private companies would improve service and prices for struggling residents.

Many engineers believe that, given adequate investment, 50 percent of Puerto Rico’s power needs could be met from renewable sources within 10 years. The Sanders plan aims for 70 percent, which is ambitious, but according to experts interviewed by the Post, not outside of the realm of possible.

The Stafford Act requires the grid be restored to its condition before the storms, but even officials who are skeptical of Sander’s plan agree that it makes no sense to invest in such an antiquated system and technology.

Judith Enck, who oversaw Puerto Rico as a regional administrator in the Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama told the Post, "It’d be a phenomenal mistake to spend federal tax dollars rebuilding the polluting, expensive, decrepit grid. My great fear is FEMA will reconstruct the old grid — and when the next hurricane hits, it will all come tumbling down again."

What do you think?

Do you support the Sanders plan? Do you think the push to renewables is the right way to go with energy infrastructure on the islands? Do you think the plan is too expensive? How do you feel about restrictions on privatization?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)



Written by Countable

Leave a comment
  • Ree

    It’s a great idea! Peurto Rico’s grid is ready for a change. Let’s see what modern grid looks like. It’s a small place and isolated from the rest of the grid so it’s an ideal test case. Wind, solar, with central and home batteries! Let’s do it!

    Like (1)
  • August

    Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico are still suffering months later, so what will it take to finally help them? Every day more Puerto Rican’s are forced to move to the states, and they will remember this come election time.