Skip to main content

tv   Puerto Rico Virgin Island Governors Testify Before Senate Energy ...  CSPAN  November 17, 2017 11:06am-1:15pm EST

11:06 am
journalists on how smear tactics are used to influence public opinion. charles sykes offers his thoughts on the conservative movement. van jones ways in on partisan politics. beverly daniel tatum looks at race relations in the united states. watch our life we can coverage of the miami book fair this weekend on c-span2 book tv the governors of puerto rico and the virgin islands testify about the damages by recent hurricanes and efforts to restore power, building an electric grid.
11:07 am
[inaudible conversations] good morning everyone. the committee will come to orde order. we are here this morning to review ongoing recovery efforts in puerto rico and the virgin islands in weeks of hurricane irma.
11:08 am
we are now over two months removed from when hurricane irma devastated st. thomas and st. john on september 6. it's been nearly 60 days since hurricane maria hit st. croix and puerto rico. this is a little over a week ago that senators cassidy's, franken and i, along with senator carper who was just here and senator harris as well as some of our house colleagues visited both st. thomas and puerto rico. i want to thank both governors, the governor or cello for your hospitality, the time that you gave us during that visit was incredibly important for all of us to see to be on the ground and to be hearing directly from you.
11:09 am
i know that some other members of our committee have traveled to puerto rico previously and i thank them for that as well. what i think we observed is that the destruction is very evident. when you consider the totality of the republic that needs to be done, i think in a word it can be said that it's over whelming. it is one of those, where you even begin moments. i think we certainly felt that in puerto rico, we felt that in usvi, i mentioned when we were there in puerto rico that i've seen my share of natural disasters, but nothing like this. when you see an entire island that has been devastated, we had an opportunity to be in
11:10 am
the air and fly over some of the. it seemed like we never left and at area that had not been hit or devastated in terms of impact. over to my left. you can see, closer to the front, the panels that remain intact. it looked like somebody smashed into them. in front of senator cantwell.
11:11 am
seeing the impact there, right before senator cortez mastro is a picture of some apartments. it had been blasted from one end to another. clean sweep to these apartment buildings. the blue tarps are certainly coming to be a symbol of the devastation that we see post hurricane. not just here but we've seen devastation following harvey in houston and in florida. i think you can see just how
11:12 am
these have been impacted. not only did we see this particular scene but another area where the only access to some 200 roads had been cut off by horrible landside on the other side. we had visited with the young woman whose home was on the other side and she had not been able to visit her home since it had happened. a very touching story, one that all of us will remember for a long time. i think we recognize in puerto rico, looking at the damage from the landslide, and
11:13 am
appreciating, in the interior rate have such montanist areas, this is still the rainy season. with the number of trees i haven't taken down, the slopes and stability during the rainy months is very uncertain. it's very sobering. when you look at this and realize these pictures were taken last week, it is clear evidence there is much to do. it is matched by the spirit of those who live on the island and we thought that and felt that. i don't know whether i am doing some floating here --
11:14 am
promoting here, but we were reminded there is a resiliently in the people. members have been given a can of soda that was manufactured and bottled in puerto rico with the # that says puerto rico strong. i thought that was pretty's cool now they were coming together and reminding each of us of the resiliency of the people of the puerto rico on the people of the u.s. virgin islands for this is her home and to reinforce our commitment to our fellow americans that we need to do what we can to help rebuild these islands. we also are looking for ways to make electric grid more resilient to future storms. we need to rebuild these grids
11:15 am
to pre-storm conditions. the electric grid was antiquated before the storms hit the really have asked the question why would we rebuild it to that standard. i think there is broad agreemen agreement, i spoke with colleagues on the other side of the aisle. congress needs to provide greater flexibility in how those funds can be used. i certainly going to work with my colleagues in the administration to help implement that change. we also know more hurricanes will impact the islands in years to come. we will see roads and bridges that will wash out, residents will face flooding in mudslides, communities will be disconnected from each other in a central grid and some of that is the reality of living on an island in a tropical
11:16 am
location. what can we do about it now, right now? restoring electricity is our main priority. it is harming the health of both local residents and their economy. when i say health mike about things like mental health. thing about being without power for 60 days. think about what that means. we see pictures of kids were kind mark using a flashlight from their cell phone. in puerto rico, schools were not open and have not been open for two months now. think about what happens from an educational perspective. when we talk about health i
11:17 am
think we need to be more expensive in our understanding of what the impact of these islands has been. the conditions are awful and tragic are also an opportunity for us to work together to rebuild the grid in a smarter manner, bearing the lines for possible direct-current alternative, i think we need to be looking at this going forward with a few things in mind. making the grid more resilient to future weather events, and in case of damage from future storms, bringing that time frame for repair on the grid, on part of what we see here in the united states. i think we recognize that any one of the 50 states here, whether you are on the mainland or like hawaii and
11:18 am
alaska, apart from the continental united states, nowhere would we accept the fact that they have been without power for two months. particularly the number of people we are talking about. also we need to work to bring down the overall cost of electricity. we are fortunate to be joined by a very distinguished panel this morning and we will have an equally distinguished panel as this concludes, but they are here to help us better understand the conditions on the ground and what needs to be done at the federal level and what a future electric grid could look like. all of our witnesses can be part of the solution and i am hopeful this hearing will be a step in that direction. i turned to senator cantwell and i look forward to a very informative discussion.
11:19 am
>> think of rescheduling this important discussion. it has been 69 days since irma struck and 66 days since irma struck and both puerto rico and the virgin islands operate in emergency mode. they are struggling with the basic needs, turning on the lights and delivering adequate healthcare. this is unacceptable. the united states is a string strong nation and needs to take care of its citizens. approximately 3.4 million citizens and over a hundred thousands citizens in virgin islands face challenges as we speak. the federal government needs to do more and it needs to plan in advance. an equitable treatment under medicaid and the unpredictable haphazard treatment of the tax code have dramatically harmed these economies. as a result, puerto rico and
11:20 am
the virgin islands have suffered from economic contractions in recent years. in response to puerto rico's debt crisis, congress passed legislation of 2016. i did not support that legislation. one of the reasons why is it favored more of the interest of the hedge fund shareholders than it did the u.s. taxpayers. by far, most reaching damages to the electricity grid. this administration has been responsible for restoring the grid along with local orders and they need to do more for the people of puerto rico. i welcome mr. walker, i supported your nomination and i'm sure you're the right man to help, but you should hear loud and clear we need to do more. the white fish contract in puerto rico raised particular concerns. in addition to the gao reviewing the matter, the inspector general in the department of homeland scary
11:21 am
reviewing the matter and according to a wall street journal report, the fbi is also best getting. according to a new york times report, the electrical workers subcontracted by white fish were paid $42 an hour, lineman 63, and yet whitefish built the government $319. hour. even if that figure is abnormally high because it included exorbitant charges for room and board, why would a contract specify a separate charge for room and board. the welfare of the puerto rico people, to rebuild the island is my number one concern. i will not stop making sure that the u.s. taxpayer is not couched in this process. let's be very clear about this. the reason why my state as many natural disasters, the reason why your mutual aid contract is to rebuild at cost. that is what a mutual aid contract is.
11:22 am
rebuilding at cost. the notion that someone comes in there to gouge the puerto rican government and the u.s. taxpayer, charging them an exorbitant rate and then writing a contract so that it can't be reviewed properly was a great injustice to the united states taxpayer. when you look at how the situation occurs, we must understand that the federal government here also needs to change his process. i have seen this time and time again in my state whether it's fire or a mudslide, where failed communication systems can't even be restored to the public because someone is saying, who will pay for this. in the gap, puerto rico made a decision to go with an entity that couched the u.s. taxpayer. it should have been clear from the very beginning that fema and the u.s. government would pay on those contracts and it should've been done with mutual aid, at cost. we are going to get to the
11:23 am
bottom of this. why? because we never want to see this happen again. we do not want to be a country where interest of the private sector are patrolling the u.s. economy, looking for disaster, and then saying i am going to go in there and capitalize on it. people should read and understand case law. case law on price gouging was this very instance. in a blizzard in the northeast , someone tried to charge more for snowblowers. they knew people had to buy them. we are not going to put up with this kind of behavior in the united states of america when people are in a crisis, in a disaster, the u.s. government should respond and should've said they will be there to restore the utility grid and do it at cost, and
11:24 am
thereby get the support. we will have lots of time for questions. there is a fun mental problem with removing the authority of the grid from the people and handing it over to an unelected oversight board. this is what was brought up in a court case yesterday. the mission of the board is to achieve fiscal responsibility and access capital markets each means playing nice with bondholders. this is not what our priority is which is getting the lights back on and preventing a continuing humanitarian crisis. those are the things we must understand as this debate continues. only a strong independent regula regulator can assure that it operates and consumers pay low prices and utilities move toward a sustainable business model and that will be a very long process. i know our colleagues here once talk about how we modernize this for the future, i do too. in the meantime, i will make sure the taxpayers well protected and we do everything we can to flatten any kind of process that exist between bureaucracies and the government of puerto rico to
11:25 am
make sure they are not having to play 20 questions about financial assistance and aid. the answer from the u.s. government should be yes and we should be doing it at cost. thank you madam chair. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses. >> thank you senator cantwell. >> our first panel this morning will be led by the governor of puerto rico, followed by the governor from the u.s. virgin islands. we welcome you. mr. bruce walker is the assistant secretary for the office of electricity, delivery and energy reliability at the u.s. department of energy. i will note that he has been on a job here for about a month and, as soon as he was sworn in, he was sent to puerto rico or volunteered to go to puerto rico and has been there for much of the time and
11:26 am
has been on the ground. i think we will have a great deal to share this morning. we are also joined by major general e jackson junior who is a deputy commanding general for the civil and emergency operation for the u.s. army corps of engineers that has been passed to address the grid system there. gentlemen, we welcome you to the committee. governors we certainly appreciate that you have traveled to be with us this morning and we appreciate your time. thank you to all of the members of the committee for inviting me to testify today before you. i would like to give special thanks to senator murkowski and all of the members from the house and the senate to
11:27 am
have taken the time to come to puerto rico to bear witness to the horrific conditions on the island as well as the unbreakable spirit of the people of puerto rico. it is impossible to describe the fury and violence of the storm to the people who did not express it. irma impacted the island and maria left no corner untouched. because the full failure of the power grid, major damage to our water systems, airports were rendered unusable and augmentation systems were shut down. i was there when we had a rescue 2000 people from rooftops reaching massive proportion several hours after the hurricane hit. some others were holding their infant babies and rooftops praying that somebody would pick them up. a few days later, i have to drive several hours northwest to the party island and through the mountainous regions, i had to personally warn folks their dam could collapse because there was no other way to communicate.
11:28 am
no phones, no radio, no water, no power, no business is open, little access to road and little access to fuel. i flew over parts of puerto rico that looks like a category five hurricane went through it. others looked like a bomb was dropped. i personally took food, water and medicine to the people of puerto rico and all corners of the island that had lost their home. notwithstanding these challenges, and the widespread devastation, we are resilient and we're making progress. we are moving from a life-sustaining phase to the recovery. water restoration is now at 90%. total mutations is that 75%. almost all supermarkets and gas stations are (i called for an aggressive milestone for energy generation and called out everyone involved to make sure we could do everything humanly possible to power puerto rico as quickly as possible. tomorrow we will have met our second milestone of restoring the energy grid by november 15.
11:29 am
59 of the 60, 58 of the 60 hospitals are connected to the grid and we have started to open schools. now we have 839 schools that are open. it is important to note that this has risk models characterizing this a 200. [inaudible] this was not partial disaster. this was a total catastrophe we have twin storms that blasted through another state. at catastrophe would have ensued as well. i became governor earlier this year with a challenging task of correcting decades of misplaced priorities. as you are aware, long before the hurricane started, people have been battled by long storm storms. i've worked tirelessly.
11:30 am
since taking office, embarking on an aggressive agenda of reform. within six months of taking office, my administration enacted the first budget compliant with the plan. although we've had our differences we have worked together. : >> and the transformation of electric utilities. even during the recovery and restoration process we are focused on developing a plan for future electric energy. we are working with members of prepa governing board to bring together top minds on the future of our electric utility.
11:31 am
our team is evaluating options including public and private ownership or a combination there were to achieve greater reliability and resilience for the long-term. we aim to revamp completely the delivery of electric energy in puerto rico. this includes aggressively incorporating technological advancements of alternative energy sources, creating frameworks for distributed energy resources, virtual power plants, achieving customer engagement and developing a robust regular framework that creates the right market and competitive signals to assure electric power is delivered reliably and efficiently and at a sustainable cost structure. therefore, i call upon congress to approve bites them an emergency supplemental legislation provides equal treatment for the people of puerto rico compared to what any state in the country would have expected that they experienced similar devastations. attached to my written testimony i have provided an extensive analysis and documentation of
11:32 am
the devastation of the hurricanes, and the federal resources necessary to build a more resilient puerto rico. work along with third-party groups of reputable institutions and organizations. in doing this i am committed, i commit to you today that i believe the most transparent disaster reconstruction in american history. towards that end i issued an executive order creating the central office of recovery and reconstruction of puerto rico which has been tasked with assuring full transparency for all state and federal funds directed towards the island reconstruction. to foster culture of accountability we will create a recovery transparency portal that will not only track the status of recovery but will also provide information to the public about how and where those funds are being used. this great country of ours has always prided itself on leadership, moral values and principles.
11:33 am
it has also responded to extraordinary times in extraordinary ways. madam chairwoman, the whole world is watching. it is time to show that we mean what we say when american citizenship is one and only one. it is time for our homeland to show that we can walk the talk. as governor puerto rico, but more so as as a proud u.s. citn of this great country, i ask you to once again rise to the call as you've you have done so mans before. thank you. god bless you. god bless puerto rico and god bless america. >> thank you governor. governor mapp, welcome to the committee. >> good morning, madam chairwoman and ranking member cantwell, and members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the catastrophic damage done to the united states virgin islands suffered from to
11:34 am
category five hurricanes, irma and maria, that devastated our eye lens just 12 days apart. let me take the opportunity to thank you, madam chair and members of your committee and the congress for visiting the u.s. virgin islands. i would to the vice president, mike pence, for calmly and seen firsthand the devastation in our territory and speaking with our citizens. i'd like to acknowledge in the audience today members of my legislature that are here led by the president myron jackson and members of our cabinet, my cabinet as well. but first and foremost on behalf of the more than 100,000 100,000 resilient americans living in the united states virgin islands, let me convey our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for the concerns so many fellow americans have shown to us during this difficult time. from the great leadership and support of our president, to
11:35 am
you, madam chair, and the nimby -- minimums of the house and senate who came to see the devastation firsthand to better understand the conditions we living in, we thank you. we also thank fema for the unwavering support of our ongoing critical needs in the virgin islands. and what you think my federal coordinating officer mr. william vogel for his support and his hard work in helping the people of the territory. i know of no government on earth which responds response to thef its citizens in a disaster than the united states of america. is the response always perfect? no, , but neither is the prediction of the outcome of an actual disaster. to our country, to our fellow citizens, to our national government, the people of the virgin islands say thank you. of course i didn't travel here today to express gratitude. i came here before you to
11:36 am
personally ask for your help and your support in recovering. these storms brought 185-mile an hour winds that with the leaves from the trees, pulling up century-old trees by the roots, and turning our green hillsides nearly black. power lines were strewn across our roads. utility poles snapped like matchsticks, and over 400 votes sunk in our harbor. nine schools, our two main hospitals and related health facilities, fire stations, police stations were so badly damaged they had to be condemned. out airport and many of our government offices are also unusable and has dramatically impacted the delivery of vital government services. simple things we normally take for granted, running water, cell phone services, electricity, a
11:37 am
hot meal remained unavailable to many of our citizens. more than 15,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and virtually all of our power distribution infrastructure was wiped out. power remains limited with power connections across the virgin islands at a mere 27%. 27%. on the island of saint john, our residence residents only started seeing power for the first time last week. can you imagine a community on the mainland going without power for over six weeks? in addition to the physical destruction our economy has grown to a near halt. few businesses are opening and those that have reopened have reopened was significantly reduced services. many private-sector workers have not returned to work. damage to our economy of this magnitude has created unsustainable cash shortfalls that we will experience now and
11:38 am
into the future. we have estimated the economic losses to our key industries including tourism stand at more than $1.7 billion, over the next three years. damage to commercial facilities stand at almost $1 billion. i'll recovery from these islands will take time and it would begin with a full understanding of the damages cost. we estimate uninsured hurricane related damages to the public sector to exceed $7.5 billion. i have requested i have requested that amount in federal disaster assistance to enable us to dress are most essential needs in order to return to normalcy. virgin islanders are resilient, but we must do more to make our islands we second. in less you want to see me back year after the next major hurricane devastation of america's paradise, we must build it back stronger and more
11:39 am
sustainable than before. we must build it back stronger and more resilient to protect our citizens and to protect the investments of our national government. this is what i am asking of you. consider our power distribution network which irma and maria destroyed. while we're optimistic that power will be nearly fully restored by christmas, but this is the fifth time that the u.s. government is paying to rebuild this power distribution system in the virgin islands. we've already taken basic steps to improve the resiliency of the grid, and to build it back using things like composite poles that can better withstand hurricane force winds. but we must go further. with your help we plan to bury power lines on the primary and secondary road systems throughout the territory here
11:40 am
and invest in a micro-grid system that will add renewable generation capacity like solar and wind energy. it's not just power line 22 approached differently. irma and maria completely devastated our critical healthcare infrastructure, destroying our two main hospitals and affiliated healthcare facilities. today, critical care is unavailable in the virgin islands. a critically ill patient in the u.s. virgin islands cannot receive care they are. critical patients and persons requiring dialysis must be flown to use mainland for care. we were doing that after irma in puerto rico, but now that our neighbor has been impacted by maria, our patients are now sold to atlanta, texas and florida. the recovery funds we are seeking help rebuild these two
11:41 am
main hospitals on st. thomas and saint croix, and a healthcare facility on st. john. reduce virgin islands recover will also require a serious look at our healthcare system as relates to federal law and policies. healthcare fun in the virgin islands was under great stress even before the two hurricanes. unequal federal medicaid funding, primarily due to arbitrary no federal matching rate has been posting severe hardship on the government finances. the virgin islands is also disadvantaged because of the centers of medicare and medicaid services using decades old benchmarks and methodologies. our hospitals he schedules are based on a 1989 fee schedule pixel reimbursing of these publicly owned hospitals cause
11:42 am
great distress to the finances of the government of the virgin islands. >> governor, , i'm going to ask you to start wrapping here. thank you. >> regarding public safety we have lost our fire stations, police stations, emergency operations centers for disasters on st. croix. the universities have been heavily damaged it while we appreciate the efforts of fema and the program, these many protect homes for the damage. however, this program is not covering folks that live in homes without frames and without rules. so with each rainfall, families are being harmed. our citizens, american citizens, have suffered terrible losses, dislocation, and distress in the wake of these storms. a recovery will be long and difficult peer virgin islanders understand and accept our responsibility for being in front of our rebuilding communities, but we cannot do it
11:43 am
alone. we cannot squander this opportunity to rebuild a better and stronger and more resilient virgin islands to simply rebuild it quickly. if we do we will only compound the suffering that so many of our citizens have endured. with your support, that won't happen. take you for listening, and thank you for supporting your fellow american citizens in the u.s. virgin islands. >> thank you, governor. and know that your full statement along with everyone on the panel will be included as part of the record. let's go to bruce walker. >> good morning. i'd like to thank chairman murkowski, ranking member cantwell, neighbors of this committee for moving be favorably from this committee during the confirmation process and expediting the confirmation so that i may go to puerto rico and the virgin islands to get a first-hand account of the damage and devastation that was done. with permission of committee i would like to enter my written testimony into the record so that i can convey my thoughts
11:44 am
regarding the time spent on the island. >> your full written testimony would be included as part of the record. >> thank you. i'd like to discuss three topics. number one, successes that i realized in my attending the virgin islands as well as puerto rico. the challenges that were faced and the opportunities we have going forward. in speaking specifically to a number of the things that both governors mentioned, are opportunities and we have an opportunity to advance of those. successes, the leadership provided by the two governors sitting next to me was fantastic, and the resilience and the heartfelt strength of citizens of both virgin islands and puerto rico was amazing. the calm on the island was outstanding. the key humanitarian challenges are continuing to be met with the leadership provided by the governors. i'd like to point out there were two critical component with the restoration that i think are worth noting.
11:45 am
number one, prepa, with limited -- made an early decision to have to tie the southern portion with a generation is to the northern portion where the vote is. and in doing so they made a key decision to construct the 230 kv line from the south bring it up to the san juan area, the substation. on the map you can see. from here, wrapping up through where that dotted line is, up here, all the way over to hear. what was important about that was that one decision and the efforts made by prepa with limited staffing enabled the power to be distributed to where the vote was. and in conjunction with the other big decisions, the next slide, the army corps working
11:46 am
with prepa installed two, 25-megawatt generators at the generation plant. and that in conjunction with the rebuild of the 230 light enabled power to be distributed to the northern portion start picking up commercial residential customers. those two efforts were monumental given the facts and circumstances. the installation of this generator with a many of the contract and install, and i was at there when it's put in, and the work that had to be done was really incredible, we had fantastic support from prepa in coordinating it, particularly with the relaying and the coordination with the army corps. lastly, the work of the federal coordinating officers both in the virgin islands and the governor mentioned, bill vogel and his deputy, david hoss, and in puerto rico with mike byrne and his deputy, the coordination that was set forth by fema was
11:47 am
outstanding in the effort to drive and work with the leadership provided by the two governors to my right. the challenges, i think you can see through a number of these pictures, a mountainous terrain was a key component where there was stressed in trying to rebuild the transmission system. lack of generation in the north, necessitate the work to be done on the transmission system. the logistics as were mentioned highly highly successful in trying to mobilize all the things necessary, equipment, people and material to get down there and still challenges being worked through. if not a fiber optics on the island were a challenge, particularly as the increased the windshear and, therefore, the damage to the polls. and the water infiltration to 18 substations, three of which were inundated to the point where they were not able to be energized. that leads me to my last moment
11:48 am
which is the opportunities. but very high level we've already mobilize the grid modernization lab consortium to look at work that has been previously done by labs like p nml and oak ridge, and were looking specifically at things like relay protection at key step station, predictive modeling, hard and controlled devices. secondly, micro-grid opportunities. we longer look at and started the process to install 200 locations representing 11 megawatts of power on puerto rico. there was a key location where we provided generation for hospitals, orders placed with 400 other locations beyond that we are doing the investigation on right now to add additional micro-grid opportunities. then will also begin looking at them in the virgin islands as well. use of the american society of civil engineering standards for the 18 substations that were inundated. there is a flood mitigation
11:49 am
program called 2414 were looking at that for the reconstruction of those 18 substations in conjunction with that utilizing noaa to do when study to identify where we can put solar and utilize, take the mound and utilize them as shielding his for the design. also we're looking at the slosh modeling done by noaa by the virgin islands as well as puerto rico in order when we had replaced substations would put them in an area that would be inundated going forward. also we have the opportunity with the high penetration of the fiber optics to develop the black net and utilize it. there's discussion with the cybersecurity, real opportunity because of density. integration and/or other generation renewables, particularly in a northern areas where the load is. that's a key component and a level of resiliency of the network because the transmission system would need to be built from the south to the north and
11:50 am
event we have to raise this up and inevitably we will see more hurricanes. and lastly, there are some basic structure components with the opportunity to do. i have some of our folks at bonneville power and whopper wae doing investigation of the power constructions because the dead in towers use on the transmission system which use pictures there ultimately most of those were standing through the island. the others were more damaged and mainly because these towers are anchored particularly than the other towers. there are some structural improvements that are also available to us it also the modification of the fiber optic and other attachment on the polls, something will have an opportunity to take a look at. >> thank you for the opportunity to convey my thoughts regarding this and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, mr. walker. general jackson. >> chairman murkowski, ranking member cantwell and
11:51 am
distinguished member of the committee, on behalf of the army corps of engineers thank you to testify today. the court conducts emergency response activities under two basic authorities, stafford act in public law. under this directly supporting the back. at response framework as a lead federal agency or emergency support function three public works imagining. it provides tip or emergency power, temporary roofing, debris management infrastructure assessment, critical public facility restoration and temporary housing. under public law 8499 we prepare for disasters to planning, ordination training with local, state, and federal partners assisting the with advanced measures that prevent or reduce storm damages and repairing damages including eligible nonfederal flood infrastructure to pre-storm conditions. when disasters occur for teams are mobilized from across the command to assist local offices with their response to the event. as part of this mission the court has more than 50 specially trained teams supported by emergency contracts that perform
11:52 am
the wide range of public works and engineering related support missions i just described. the corps users 30 what a contracts that could be quickly activated for temporary power, debris removal and temporary roofing. this year the corps has supported fema federal lead sponsor including hurricanes arm and maria in the craving. we can truly be actively involved in support of hurricane harvey in texas and louisiana. hurricane irma and florida and in the aftermath of devastating wildfires in california. the court has received 59 fema mission assignments in support of the response to hurricanes, and maria in puerto rico and the u.s. virgin islands. the court has over 1900 personnel employed in the region. as of this morning the course complete over 1300 assessments and over 765 temporary generator installations in the creepy. this includes 270 assessments and 156 generator installations in the u.s. virgin islands and 11 at assessment and six at 12 installations in puerto rico.
11:53 am
under fema authority we are assisting puerto rico with operation and minutes of over one at 50 critical nonfederal generators across the island. we have over 550 soldiers, civilians and contractors dedicated to temporary power alone in puerto rico. we have completed 12,000 to bring roofing installations in the caribbean including 3300 and u.s. virgin islands and 8700 in puerto rico. reference requirements in both have been extensive required an additional material and construction support which initially slow progress. we have adjusted or adding capacity and will continue to see improvements in both locations. the corps experts are providing technical and direct federal assistance. we are working to remove an estimated 1,000,000 1 million s of debris and u.s. virgin islands and over 4 million cubic yards of debris in puerto rico. the court were to close with u.s. coast guard, national oceanic and atmospheric administration and local authorities to open harbors and navigation channels across all
11:54 am
affected areas critical to restrain commerce and along the flow of commodities and essential equipment to reach affected communities. in puerto rico we inspected 40 levees and 17 priority dams working closely with the puerto rico electric power authority or prepa to stabilize the spillway failure. the corps team helped clear conduits and place emergency spouts yet restore flow to a critical treatment plan that supports needs of over 100,000 people. on september 30 the course given a mission assignments under stafford act authority to assess prepa in conducting emergency repairs to the grid itself. the corps is parting with prepa and has established a general officer let task force to oversee work and provide technical assistance. the department of energy has a bit experts and continues to advise and assist in our efforts. unlike with our mission the court doesn't approve awarded contracts for this type work but has relied on a contingency
11:55 am
contracting tools to compare the build capacity to meet operational requirements. since this information is on the corps has installed 50 make what temperate power temporary power plant to stabilize the great in san juan as secretary walker just talked about comfortable and $70 million in critical materials currently flowing into the island today that includes currently 39,000 poles and 3000 and 3000 miles of conductor wire and with contracted for two additional light repair crews that are flowing into the island to assist the ongoing efforts by prepa. we just recently awarded a contract for 25 mw tip repower plant that will be installed in the mix of weeks to assist the crippled facility. the corps remains committed and capable execute its activities across the nation despite a heavy involvement in these ongoing response and recovery operations. we remain ready and willing to assist the future events. this concludes my testimony and out of four to answering any questions you might have. thank you. >> thank you, major general. thank you all for your
11:56 am
testimony. we will now have an opportunity for five-minute rounds of questioning. governors, i want to direct this to you first. one of the things that impressed me, governor mapp, when we were in u.s. virgin islands, you relayed to us or shared certainly with me that this is now your fifth hurricane. you have a bit of experience dealing with disasters, and you indicated that in anticipation of hurricane irma coming our way, you effectively had things up so that in the event that you hit, which of course you were, you could immediately move forward to basically pushing send with request for mutual aid, indicated that that about you then to move quickly to remove debris and really get to work in an area that it didn't incredibly devastated.
11:57 am
we are looking at this hearing to not only learn about what we have done right, where we have stumbled in this effort, and also had to move forward from that, but that's one thing that i look at the two islands that were impacted both in considerable ways, and in puerto rico, governor rossello, mutual aid was not implemented immediately. in fact, i heard many times as we were traveling there that, in fact, the real recovery, the real recovery didn't begin until a month later, effectively october 30 when the mutual aid switch was flipped and the effort really began. governor rossello, can you share with the committee wide mutual
11:58 am
aid was not advanced immediately? >> of course. thank you again for the opportunity. they just take you initially through the timeframe that was the two twin storms. we first got hit with burma. at that juncture there were some requests for information. for several contractors to come to puerto rico to attend to some of the challenges that we had after irma. that of course was looking forward just restarting without the energy grid, without looking at the moment when we would have another storm in puerto rico. >> just so i'm clear, did you not believe after irma at the damage was sufficient to have invoked mutual aid, that you could handle that on your own? >> the results are there. the power authority actually picked up from 25% energy that,
11:59 am
the day after the storm, about 96.5% energy restoration right before maria hit. so there was work in progress being made. of course, the power authority had been working on alternative mechanisms to bring more support to the island. in comes maria, and i just have to define what were the first days immediately after marie. first of all, we really have no knowledge of a vast damage that was done in puerto rico because we had no communications. i mean, i know it's hard to put yourself in that situation, but puerto rico is a relatively small island, but it is, to travel it, typically takes a couple of hours. at that point with no communications, no radio communications, , which we expected to have. at that point all of the roads were place a clue blocked -- were basically blocked. immediately after the storm we
12:00 pm
were to assess the situation, to contact, establish logistics moving forward and going through a life sustainment face. right after the storm as i mentioned in my initial statement, emergencies ensued. we literally had to go, i had to take the position that even under martial law i had to mobilize police officers and the national guard from wherever they were so that we can rescue people. they were at risk of drowning. this happened several times against as the storm passed, more water chain. .. >> the mayors of what was going on. >> governor, i'm going to
12:01 pm
interrupt only because i'm out of time. but i, it begs the question then, obviously, great deal of immediate urgency to save human life. >> right. >> but in retrospect, would it have not been wiser to do -- as we saw in the u.s. virgin islands -- just push sand and request that mutual aid? >> right. you know, we spoke about this, the -- [inaudible] head will be happy to answer all of those components in the decision making that went into that. but i just want to add a element. when we were making that decision about bringing some of the additional assets to puerto rico, we had the offer from the corps of engineers that would allow us to restore the energy grid fairly quickly and immediately as was stated to us initially and that we didn't have to have a cost sharing to do so. right now, as you know, puerto rico is in a fiscal predicament
12:02 pm
that we had little, little liquidity to push forward. so having those two alternatives, chairwoman, we chose under the understanding that, you know, things were going to pick up quickly, that the energy grid was going to be restored, most of it within 45 days, we chose the alternative that both fema and the corps of engineers proposed to us which was let's do it through the corps of engineers and in collaboration with prepis -- prepa so that we could get going. >> we all have a lot of questions here, i'm going to go to -- [inaudible] >> thank you, madam chair, you're right about that. we definitely do. so i want to make sure where we are right now, i appreciate everybody's testimony and work on solving the problems. is everything working seamlessly now as it relates to the army corps and to prepa and to everything that needs to happen, or do we still need some
12:03 pm
streamlining? >> well, let me say two things. first of all, i mean, it is public record that i wasn't satisfied with the original deployment of the corps of engineers. i established, again, we were under an impression that this was going to, you know, start immediately, that we were at a 45-day time frame. otherwise, of course, we would have looked for other alternatives. having said that, and thanks to several meetings that we've had, now we have three daily meetings on what's going on with the energy grid that includes prepa, the do to e, includes -- doe, includes the corps of engineers, some of the stakeholders so that we can push forward and meet the aggressive standards that we have for puerto rico. so while, again, as i said in the onset, i was not, i was not satisfied and i voiced it, i am hopeful that this new mechanism can allow us to get to our objectives and, you know, what i ask the senate is, of course, to
12:04 pm
keep us serving, to keep hearing us out, and as it pertains to the past week, there has been an increase, a phenomenal increase in communication, more deployment of personnel to puerto rico. and as i stated on our initial, on our initial statement, you know, our objective to get 50% by november 15th looks like we're right on target. >> thank you, governor. mr. walker, what, what do you do about this issue with the bondholders having a lien against prepa? so here we are trying to make this work from a perspective of are restoring the grid, and we have a bondholder lien. so what are you going to do to make sure that taxpayer dollars aren't just going to wall street instead of building the grid? >> thank you for the question, senator. during my time in puerto rico, that was a question that came up. and working with fema and fema
12:05 pm
lawyers, they worked through mechanisms where they feel confident that the investments that are being made in the system under the emergency restoration will not be attach bl as they're actually grants. and so the federal government through fema, it's better, it's a better question to be answered by a fema expert. but i had to learn as much about fema rules as i could when i was in puerto rico. so i asked that question specifically when i was down there. there was, obviously, concern with the investment being made under the emergency restoration. but they're, they believe that money will be protected. >> so do you believe that we need further structure by you, doe, or others in integration with prepa? because yesterday i'm pretty sure those bondholders were in court trying to wrangle this organization away from the government and into their pocketbooks. now, the judge denied that, but i guarantee you this won't be
12:06 pm
the end of this situation. so what do you, what does the administration believe -- if you're saying today prepa has the full oversight that it needs, or are you saying no doe and -- >> well, i think if congress appropriates money for permanent work, that, you know, fema will have to make decisions with regard and congress will have to make the decision with regard to how that money is allocated and who's responsible for it. if the congress approves -- but do you believe that prepa needs oversight by you or any aspect of the federal government right now? >> no, i think prepa is uniquely qualified to their system to restore the system and get it up and lunge. >> and you're a person who's sent much time in this sector prior to coming -- >> i've spent my entire life there. and i worked very closely with ricardo ramos who's on the next panel and prepa personnel and
12:07 pm
their control staff restoring the systems. as i earlier noted, there were some very significant challenges in making the decisions to restore the system, but prepa, you know, rose to the challenge and made those decisions and started working. and as the governor noted, have gotten back to almost 50% of the system. >> so you're -- >> so it's working. >> so you're standing by prepa in this in moving forward. >> i am. >> and then you will work with us on this larger issue of making sure, you know, this is not the last disaster we're going to see. >> no. >> and i think we need to work very hard to make sure this situation where somebody came in to take advantage of the gap that existed between not having this full faith fema commitment and the fact that prepa made a decision then, look, we had our constituents gouged during the enron crisis. literal, people were saying you're going to pay 3,000 times the rate. so utilities who had a
12:08 pm
must-serve requirement signed up for those exorbitant rates. it took us years to get out of it. we were going to be the deep pocket in bankruptcy. so i just want to make sure we're stopping this kind of behavior and that we work across -- because we're going to see many more disasters, and we should just put the word out we're not going to be involved in this kind of price gouging by somebody coming in and trying to take advantage of a disaster. >> yes, ma'am. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator. senator cassidy. >> i'll return for the second panel with prepa, but my questions all relate to it. mr. walker, do you know how much it will cost to upgrade the -- let me start over. it's context. senator franken and i and senator murkowski have had this conversation, what could you do to make your grid, governor, in puerto rico concern and by the way, governors, thank you very much for your hospitality -- more resilient. the idea is you could have a distributed energy system of renewables but then some sort of
12:09 pm
fast-acting lng to come on the back side to -- when the sun doesn't shine. i was struck, we went out to a tesla facility, and they laid out a nice array, but it had rained every day, and their battery had still not fully charged. they were running the generator pretty constantly which showed the limitation of the distributed energy. important? useful, but a little limited. needing backup. so, first, can i ask -- and this may be a question for prepa -- i know there that there is alreade lng on, but to what degree can your fossil fuel facilities serve as fast-acting backup in case there is need for the grid? governor or mr. walker, do y'all have that answer? >> it may -- i can wait for the next panel if need be. >> yes. >> do we know how much it would cost to upgrade the facility to
12:10 pm
make that operational going forward as opposed to short term? >> in the long term or in the short term? >> in the long term, i'm sorry. in the long term. >> in the long term, again, i wouldn't -- that question to the prepa direct or. >> sounds great. and i ask the progress right now of, mr. walker, you showed the nice pictures of those long-term transmission lines going across the mountains. whats the progress of getting those -- what is the progress of getting those stood up and where are we, 90%, 80%? >> the, as far as i know, and ricardo's here, so he can correct me, both the 230 lines that cut through the middle islands are scheduled to be complete by the end of november. >> got it. and what percent of the island now has power back? >> 49% today. >> 49%. san juan looked pretty good when we were there, relatively speaking, but other communities less so. >> right, right. it's been continuously, and, of course, we've had ups and downs.
12:11 pm
we've had significant rain events as well that have deterred. but right now as we stated we had a, an objective of getting to 50% by mid november, and we're poised to achieve that. >> and, general, i think it was a conversation with you, i think it was with you, my sense was that the utility level renewables really didn't do that well. we saw the busted windmills and the broken arrays, but that the distributed energy did okay, the solar possibles on top -- panels on tops of the rooftops k. and as i went around anecdotally, it seemed as though those were intact both by helicopter and by visual. is that a correct impression? >> senator, that's exactly what i observed. depending on where the solar panels were located really determined how well they fared poststorm. >> and, mr. walker, you spoke about some of these switching
12:12 pm
stations being inundated. was that by rain or by flood? >> both, sir. >> now, i'm going to ask something really stupid. when the rain inundated, how -- did it, i assume -- i can imagine a flood because it comes in and it fills up from the the bottom. but rain comes down from the top, and it seems as be a shield would have kept that protected unless the shield blew over -- >> yeah. it wasn't the rain per se on the station, it was the accumulation of the rain into these channels that then went into the substations. >> i gotcha. was that a design flaw, or is that inherent in any storm like this? >> i don't think it was a design flaw. i mean, you know, many of these stations have been there for many, many years. >> so the upgrading and hardening you're speaking of would address this? >> yes, sir. >> okay. >> specifically. >> gotcha. mayor mapp, i'm not ignoring the
12:13 pm
u.s. virgin eye larntiondz it's just that your problems seemed a little bit more manageable than those of puerto rico. >> yes. and i did want to answer your question about the upgrade of the power situation of the virgin islands. totally the rebuild and the resiliency would be about 850 million. and i didn't i did want to point in the renewables we had two experiences. renewables on hillsides by one vendor on one island worked perfectly. i mean, that entire field maybe 2% -- >> which island was that? >> -- damaged, 2%. on another island with a different vendor and the vendor for the district court, completely e maasuateded. >> now, st. croix was relatively unaffected, do i know that? >> no, st. croix suffered tremendously in hurricane maria, and st. thomas, st. john in hurricane irma. >> gotcha. >> so i got it on both sides.
12:14 pm
but the point i'm trying to make is part of the issue with these solar panels are clearly how they are installed and who installs them. because we had great survivability in 175 mile-an-hour winds across one hillside, and on the same island just a mile away with a different vendor, completely destroyed. st. thomas completely destroyed. >> that's intriguing, but i'm over time. i yield back, thank you. >> thank you, senator cassidy. senator heinrich. >> thank you, madam chair. and i want to start and recognize congresswoman stacey plaskett from the virgin islands who is joining us as well. governor mapp, i'm going to allow grow expand on the -- allow you to expand on the same line of questions. what, have you been able to determine at point what the characteristics of that survivability were so that we can make sure that in future installations that's incorporated? >> not as yet.
12:15 pm
but the, this particular entity that is the third party provider, their panels also for their private climates -- i mean, in huge arrays also seemed to survive very well. and that just indicates to us that in just putting these people, hiring them, we've got to be careful in terms of how they're installing them and what systems they are using. because we had that different experience. >> it seems like there's probably something in the engineering that we need to -- >> to look at. >> -- to ascertain what that is and make sure any future installations regardless of vendors learn those lessons. governor row sill low, i wanted to ask you, you know, as you said, the hurricane was an unprecedented catastrophe for pert rio. -- puerto rico. but given the antiquated nature of the pre-prepa grid, fors also an -- it's also an opportunity to create a much better, more
12:16 pm
modern, more resilient electrical grid for your constituents. what do you want to see in terms of generation, transmission, distribution? what would you like that to look like for your constituents? >> well, i would like it to be an opportunity for us to leapfrog from really 19th century technology to the vanguard of the 20th -- 21st century. and what does that look like in puerto rico. well, we have major, you know, several flaws in terms of the design. asides from having antiquated, you know, power plants, most of our generation was done in the south. yet most of the people and most of the consumption is done in the north. so you lose about 12-15% in the transmission going northward. it is time, it is an opportunity to rethink that, where to do we have that generation and make it better. you know, piggybacking on senator cassidy's comments, you know, i think it is an opportunity also to leapfrog in renewables. i've envisioned us leapfrogging
12:17 pm
to 25% renewables in puerto rico and recognizing that there are, you know, some mitigation strategies that we need to put in place. that is why we have worked with the prepa governing board to have a group of thought leaders that can actually help us in the design and looking forward and specifically looking where this could happen. last mile events in puerto rico are very important. it's important to consider the terrain. puerto rico's not flat, it's got a mountainous region. so we will be very aggressively pursuing that we get to 90, 95% of the energy consumption and energy generation. but that last mile always takes more time because there are sort of remote areas of the island. this is an opportunity to make micro-grids in puerto rico so that they can be sustained in different areas. and lastly, adding to this whole component of renewables, i think
12:18 pm
it is an opportunity to look at this from a bottom-up and a top-down approach. with the collaboration of fema, we were able to for the paris time in the s -- for the first time in the s.t.e.p. program allow either a power plant generator be added to the house or a renewable battery pack solar combo be added to those homes in the s.t.e.p. program now. we expect there will be about 80,000 homes that will be introduced to the program. think about what that means if half of them decide to go the remote battery pack route. you can think about things like a virtual power plant in puerto rico where you can have smart distribution of the energy and where, you know, some days it might be cloudy in some areas in puerto rico. it'll be sunny, certainly, in others as well. and that energy can be distributed alongside, you know, of course, a complement of utility-size and industrial-size generation which i envision,
12:19 pm
senator, should start transitioning from petroleum-based generation which is costly and, of course, more harmful to a gas, liquid gas and so forth generation. so those are, you know, in a nutshell, what we envision the sort of future grid of puerto rico looking like. >> i'm about out of time. i would just add to that when you have retail electric rates in the mid 20s, that gives an awful lot of room to be able to build that new -- >> right. >> -- distributed, clean grid. because when you have ppa agreements being signed in the u.s. for 4.5 cents a kilowatt hour solar plus storage, that really creates some real opportunities here. to do that, do it in a way that sevens your constituents without gouging them as well. >> yeah. i think it is an opportunity based on that margin, based on that differential. i'm sure the governor as well over here has the same problem that can become an opportunity.
12:20 pm
>> thank you, senator heinrich. senator gardner. >> thank you, madam chair. thank you to the panelists for being here. governors, thank you for your leadership, all of you. mr. walker, general, thank you for your leadership during very challenging times. governor, good to see you again. obviously, it was a very meaningful visit to puerto rico in the days following the hurricane and to have the opportunity to see what had happened to our fellow americans is tragic and, of course, this committee, this congress is obligated and committed to continue solutions and partnerships. i apologize for stepping out. i had a foreign relations committee markup and vote, so i may have missed when you discussed this in your opening statements or question and answer sessions. what should prepa, governor ros ros -- rossello, look like in five years, in ten years? >> i think we need to transform prepa. i think we are -- i think everybody is in accordance. i think prestorm we had a
12:21 pm
strategy moving forward. it was a longer-term strategy based on natural obstacles that we would see in terms of switching, you know, some of these power plants and so forth. but now, you know, based on the catastrophe if we look at this as a window of opportunity to renew and make it better, i think that it's a phenomenal opportunity for the people of puerto rico. what will it look like? i certainly see collaboration with the private sector. what is that structure? it needs to be ironedded out. it needs to be fleshed out and developed. i think we need to look at the best interests of the people of puerto rico to work for that solution. we have a, you know, gold standard p3 structure in puerto rico which i think can be very powerful, but we are not close to other alternatives -- >> in your mind, just quickly, in your mind is there anything that's off the table when it comes to prepa and its
12:22 pm
organization? >> well, as long -- there is nothing as long as the objective stays the same which is producing reliable, efficient energy, you know, at competitive costs. i think that this should be -- and a cleaner energy paradigm for the people of pert' eco. those are the critical components. what the tactical strategies are, those might be shifting. i spoke a little bit about those at a higher level, but we're certainly committed the getting results for the people of puerto rico. we are very much an outcomes-driven administration -- >> you mentioned a little bit of this with senator heinrich, the commonwealth's objective is to have 50% renewable energy by 2040, prior to the storm a little over 2% was derived from renewables. is this goal still realistic? is it right? how can we help get information to achieve that goal? >> yep, i think that statement was laid out by another person in another panel.
12:23 pm
ing what we are looking at is the current opportunity to increase to about 20-25% renewables right now in puerto rico. what that longer term path, you know, post-five year looks like and what, you know, i think depends a lot on, you know, what is the resiliency of the system, how does it work with some of our other needs industrially and so forth. but certainly right now in the short to midterm we see an opportunity to leapfrog in what our renewable growth effort was and get to 20-25%. >> yeah. and thank you. governor, obviously, my comments about puerto rico stand, the u.s. virgin islands as well and what we're going to be doing to make sure we complete the process. thank you for your leadership. i'm going to probably submit questions for the record for you because i need the get to mr. walker real quick before i run out of time. mr. walker, you talked about your experience as a key
12:24 pm
qualification for the appointment that you were receiving. seems like we picked the right guy at the right time. [laughter] how are these skills being put to use in puerto rico from a modernization standpoint, resources, rapid response, national laboratory participation? how are we moving forward with that and move toward with actions of resilience in puerto rico? >> yes, sir. i spoke earlier about the opportunities that are being taken advantage of now focusing on building the resiliency, lowering the cost of electricity and driving economic growth. one as the governor just noted, the s.t.e.p. program, we converted that instead of putting generators in, we have the opportunity to put in solar with battery pack recognizing that there's are some cost avoidance in maintaining the generator but also providing some long-term strategies. in addition to that, we've already identified 200 locations where we're providing generators for hospitals -- >> mr. walker, if i can
12:25 pm
interrupt real quick, and i apologize. maybe we can follow up -- >> absolutely. >> what do you need from this committee specifically to move forward with your job? >> i don't need anything immediately are because all the things that are necessary are actually being done. so we've mobilized the modernization lab consortium already. i've got people at the bonneville power working on some very specific projects. we've invoked noaa and the national hurricane service to do wind studies and slosh model studying for some of the resiliency for the substations, the integration of solar farms back on the mainlands of puerto rico and virgin islands, governor mapp mentioned earlier some survived, some didn't. so we're doing that analysis already. if congress decides to appropriate dollars for permanent work, a number of other things may, you know, come out of that based on the planning that the governors are doing. >> great. i apologize for cutting you off.
12:26 pm
we'll have that conversation. >> yes, sir. >> thanks. >> thank you, senator gardner. senator franken. >> thank you, madam chair, for holding this committee, and thank you for leading the delegation down to puerto rico and the virgin islands and with senator cassidy, came along with us, and it's good to see both governors. governor rossello, just before i start a series, i had a different takeaway than senator cassidy on the tesla array at the children's hospital. it seemed to me that actually they were, during the day, operating the hospital using the solar array. which they admitted wasn't big enough because of the space that was there, but that powered the hospital during the day and did fill up the battery. and the battery lasted til about midnight until it was down to 20%.
12:27 pm
is that, was that your understanding? >> yes. they were, the average load time that they were working -- mind you, it was a couple of days of a lot of rain they were still, obviously, getting some energy, but it was about 20-21 hours a day that it was working under the solar panel battery system, and then they would have -- >> yeah. and then they had generators. >> right. >> after that. so two weekends ago we went down to puerto rico, last weekend i visited some minnesotans from puerto rico and, who, you know, want this done in the rebuilding done in a resilient way as i think everybody on the panel does. and to make -- in a resilient way that makes humanitarian, environmental and fiscal sense. and the federal government must do everything it can to assist.
12:28 pm
this, we -- the importance of resilience here is that we know we are going to see these storms. we heard this was a once in a 200-1,000 year storm. with climate change, that's not going to be the case anymore. we know that with rising sea level you're going to see stronger surges, storm surges. we need to build a resilient grid because these are going to be happening again. and as the climate continues to warm, they're just going to get more powerful. so we really have to build a stronger and more resilient grid. so i want to talk about that a little bit. we have been talking about a vision of this, how it does -- how we do that. one of the things i want to ask about is the stafford act. because the if we're rebuilding this under the stafford act, i
12:29 pm
was wondering -- and anybody's thoughts on this -- about the changes in the stafford act that are necessary to build back a better, and is the administration aware of that? mr. walker? and what -- any thoughts on that? >> i can comment a little bit on that as well. i think there's two critical components. number one, you need to be flexible, right? if you have a state that has a modern system already and it comes down, then the stafford act makes sense because you just put something back up that was already modern. but if you are investing a lot of money in something that's going to come down again, it's just not the best use for that money. and i would also add the component of -- [inaudible] there is this element of trying to evaluate how much damage was done prior to the storm, because
12:30 pm
of the storm or because of maintenance issues. well, here's the reality with the -- >> okay. i don't have much time, and i want to hear from others. sorry. sorry, mr.-- governor. >> i'd like to comment on that. >> yeah. >> one, it should really think about building stronger and better because it prevents future costs for reconstruction. and in communities like the virgin islands and puerto rico, the matching fund component could be very difficult in terms of its restriction in administrative waivers. ..
12:31 pm
yes. if you want to keep manufacturing there, we have members of pharmaceuticals come, we want those there. one of the things is that we can drive that cost down for those, for energy. if we want to keep those businesses there working on tha that.
12:32 pm
there's definitely a place for lng and also for. we make it resilient. thank you. >> mr. franken. >> senator lee. >> thank you madame chair. we begin today's hearing with a certain amount of knowledge. expert opinion testimony has identified a laundry list of concerns with management and operation. let me list a few. staff have been hired without regard to experience and expertise resulting in the failure of multiyear projects. we've seen widespread theft of power and billing failures.
12:33 pm
we've seen outdated infrastructure that has resulted in unacceptably high rate of force and sometimes prolonged outages. we have generation units that are outdated technologically, requiring the reliance on expensive fuel and we have procurement practices that have focused on a large number of small vendors with payments going out to over 14000 individual entities. corruption and mismanagement have been a problem and they've plagued the organizations for decades. if we don't start exercising meaningful oversight over other every dollar spent in contract signed we could be looking at decades of ongoing
12:34 pm
problems, and even more dire financial situations going forward and perhaps decades of d.o.j. corruption prosecutions. a lot of people might be tempted to look at this and think the story, the stories and somehow starts and ends with whitefish. whitefish is important. it's significant, we have to look at it because it exemplifies what has become all too commonplace in puerto rico and the virgin islands. a system in which public and economic corruption have become all too common. it doesn't take a biologist to see that a whitefish doesn't swim alone. if we put out a trolling neck, we will find a school of similar contracts with boatloads of handouts, with graft and with greed, all at the expense of hardwoo hard-working families. i will look for some ways we can address this.
12:35 pm
now, governor, would like to start with you and make reference to the false claims act. as you know it was put in place during the civil war era and put in place among some provisions allowing private citizens to bring suit on behalf of the united states in the name of the united states for billing fraud. so let me ask you governor, would you object to the amendment of the federal false claims act and allow things like that to be brought by citizens in such a way that we define puerto rico, we defined the united states include puerto rico, in other words to define them to include territories including puerto rico such that billing fraud
12:36 pm
cases could be addressed through the provisions of the federal false claims act. >> it is my view that anything that gets us closer to behavior and treatment of the u.s. citizens of puerto rico to the u.s. citizens than anywhere else in the united states, i propose, i support that. having not looked in detail at your proposal, what i will say in terms of a broad statement is i am willing to be full participants as u.s. citizens in all respects. i do. >> you don't see anything about amending the federal false claims act. >> what i would ask is for equal treatment in general. let's not pick any certain ways, let's just get equal treatment for the people of puerto rico. i want to also answer some of
12:37 pm
the premise, i've been in office for ten months and i iran on a platform of transparency, recognizing that there have been decades of reckless behavior but recognizing as well that there are good serving people in puerto rico and we have to establish reforms. our administration has been breaking records in terms of how many reforms we've established, and one of those reforms that we are continuing to work on is the human reform. that's why, when the whitefish situation came about, i took action immediately. i called for an investigation, i called for any investigation on that manner. secondly, i installed a procurement compliance officer that will actually be working on the concepts of that procurement reform for puerto rico as well. we are very much committed to transparency.
12:38 pm
that's why what we are proposing, that puerto rico starts rebuilding and in the rebuilding process we will do this transparently with control, we are working with the white house and with omb for controls and transparency so we are very much willing participants in that. >> thank you. i see my time has expired. i do want to be cleared, fraud against puerto rico as a territory of the united states is fraud against united states and should be covered by the false claims act. thank you. >> as well as equal treatment u.s. citizen. >> madam chair, i would like to ask for two minutes to respond to senator lee. i want to be very clear that the virgin islands and the port authority have gone to great lengths to deal with issues of fraud. we have connected technology, we prosecute customers who steal electricity and water, we fire and prosecute employees involved in theft, we are now third-year where we bid out each year services for
12:39 pm
alignment, if there's a disaster so we don't have to go through that in a hurricane. this year we simply pull the trigger. we do that for debris removal, we do that for road clearing. we are making sure that the cost of power in the territory is what it cost to produce power and distribute it. we have no tolerance grass or theft or enriching themselves. we can be assured any of this money that you provide, we will ensure contracts with vendors have penalty clauses, we require greater bonds to protect the interest of the people of the territory in the people of this country. we need your help for the reconstruction but we don't want any obstruction on the premise that we are planning to enrich ourselves or to use
12:40 pm
underhand table or activity in the procurement process. your my personal assurance that that won't happen while i'm sitting in the office of the government. >> thank you. >> think manager. thank you to the palace here. thank you for your comments today. i do have constituents in nevada would've loved ones go. we're doing everything we can to help the standup the people there. my understanding under the stafford act that limits the use of federal disaster relief funds for repairing, restoring, reconstructing or replacing a public facility or nonprofit facility on the basis of the design as it existed immediately before the major disaster.
12:41 pm
my understanding is that all of the talk of her today which is important talk about new infrastructure varying lines in looking at how we add renewable capacity, that is something that is not going to be addressed through the funding to the relief that comes from the federal government. is that correct? >> that is my understanding. as i mentioned earlier, we are doing emergency restoration work now. a number the things that have been mentioned here, if congress approves a different appropriations, those are things we could further build in his hourly are asking that they can set up new infrastructure and do what we heard today? we know another hurricane will come through another disaster. it's just where the climate is today.
12:42 pm
is that the ask today from the governors. >> could you repeat the question. >> so the stafford act limits the number of money you're getting from the federal government for disaster relief to repair and reconstruct. it is not for new construction or new types of renewable energies. are you coming for additional funds outside of the stafford act, outside of disaster relief? >> yes because under stafford, if the system connected to the generation isn't damaged it can be touched. the whole power system is all connected and so we want to change to more efficient renewables, wind, solar, if the generation system hasn't been damaged then we can have an exclusion. we will need changes in the language to permit that. >> we recognize the limitations of fema funding
12:43 pm
within this, we are asking for additional funding so we can get that flexibility as well and actually rebuild. you can discuss whether it's a good idea or not on the context of the merit of the energy in the structure but is really just a bad idea to rebuild the system that is frail and spend good taxpayer money because you're going to have to do it once over again. >> thank you. my time is limited. the me just say, everything i've heard about the concerns with the energy grid and setting it up in the structure and the needs there and i echo with my colleagues, but let me jump to healthcare. this is an issue i've heard the governors talk about. are we doing every weekend to address the medical needs and healthcare needs if we have hospitals that have been destroyed, healthcare facilities i have been destroyed, what do you need from us and are you happy with
12:44 pm
the federal response when it comes to providing that healthcare programs start with you. >> we view changes in the policy and the law, for example the match rate for medicaid is an obligate tory 45% to the territory. the fee-based schedules and the services covered under medicare and medicaid are just stuck in the statue because of the territory. just as a simple example, i have medicaid patients with cancer. if i have a treatment for that patient and it cost $13000, under the statute, they only allow a 1000-dollar reimbursement for that patient. that means the central government is in at 12 grand. the fee schedule for the hospitals, an application for renewal, complete accepted by cms, or five years old, we are
12:45 pm
back on a 1989 fee schedule for the hospitals. so, folks just leave the territory and go to the mainland for services, but those who cannot afford it are severely impacted and then the central treasury of the government of the virgin islands has to subsidize back here and airlift are transport patients to the u.s. mainland and pay for their services. we want to work with the committee to make adjustments. we want to get the medicaid match rate adjusted. you gave us $300,000,000.8 years ago to spend over ten years. 226million of it is unspent because we can't afford to put the dollars on the table to make the 45% medicaid match. we are saying waited for three years, we can spend it out of that pool, remove the fiscal cliff, i have more people requiring medicaid because of the disaster and we can cover
12:46 pm
it out of that allotted pool. >> i'll be brief because i've shared many of the concerns, affordable care act gave puerto rico a block grant for a particular time because we are capped at $350 million and that sort of gave the illusion for a couple years that we were spending about $1.65 billion. what we are asking right now, aside from having the limitations in the catastrophe of the storm, we are now heading on a medicaid cliff as well that is driving us off from an effective $1.6 billion to $350 million. what are we asking for? are asking to consider a five-year path to increase that cap number 21.6 billion for two years and have it one
12:47 pm
100% cost-sharing. >> in hurricane katrina, the congress provided these waivers on the match and the additional support on the medicaid and medicare side. >> thank you. thank you for letting me go over my time. i appreciate it. >> thank you madam chair. the owner, you recently counseled the contract with whitefish. you call for an investigation. isn'is the investigation still going on? >> i called for two investigations protocol for one in puerto rico and one for dhs to do the same and i called upon all of the entities that can investigate to do so. listen. we are committed to transparency and we are committed to finding out the truth. >> i take it the investigation that discovers any wrongdoing there will be prosecution or appropriate action.
12:48 pm
>> of course. >> secretary walker, you did indicate that you stand by the ability to restore the grid, but in light of the ongoing investigation of whitefish as the governor just mentioned, perhaps they should provide more oversight than what you had indicated. i also want to note that i think it is a good thing that you are working with our national labs to come up with a more resilient grid and doing all kind of modernization efforts that should occur for puerto rico, but a state like hawaii which is also an island state, the kind of collaboration that you are doing and the developments that are occurring as a result of what happened puerto rico would have an applicability to the virgin islands, hawaii and even alaska and another noncontiguous state. do you have those kinds of recognitions in mind.
12:49 pm
>> absolutely. that's the baseline where we start. hawaii has done quite a bit of work and resiliency in renewables and we actually have the written document with that we put on some of the work that doe did in conjunction when they were putting the system together. i have been to wye several times, working on the underground secondary networks and also take a look at some of the integration of renewables as it relates to their overall system. between the work that has been done previously in the labs, the work that has been done by them specifically, i had a meeting at the white house yesterday where other projects, we're going to reports in the documents with specific regard on how to into integrate things that were done that were successful, and the things that one with the virgin island. >> think of that. i know hawaii has some pretty
12:50 pm
significant vulnerabilities should a disaster of the magnitude of maria hit a wahoo, for example. whatever the applicability is with puerto rico, i'm very interested in how we can help hawaii. governor, i realize that we know that the stafford act has some limitations on the funding that you can get. i do have a concern that were we to list that limitation, there might be the unintended consequence of our various power authorities not doing their jobs to maintain, modernize and do those maintenance of effort kind of things. i think it is really important that we provide you with the opportunity to come before us and asked for additional funds in addition to what's provided in the stafford act. i'm wondering, based on your estimates, how much are you
12:51 pm
asking congress to fund in terms of the kind of modernization, resilience et cetera, that you would like to see in puerto rico. >> it's about $70 million in damage estimates. >> for one year. >> for the bulk. >> $17 billion. >> that's right. >> i know you hope congress will authorize that. do you expect that funding to occur in one year or over a period of time. >> it would be over a period of time. again, this is our initial damage assessment. i want to state that we worked on this with third parties so that you can get third-party validation of how robust the damage was, we are also including in separating what it takes to put it back together and what it takes for
12:52 pm
it to be resilient towards the future. >> do you know if the trumpet ministration is prepared to support your funding request of $17 billion? >> what we are asking over here is very simple. congress have to make a decision on how they want to act upon the different disasters that have occurred across our nation. what we are asking is equal treatment. texas submitted their damage assessment as well. i'm sure the other jurisdictions that have had damages will do so as well. i think you are empowered to put the guidelines of how that is going to work. it is my job as governor to make sure that you have the best information available so that you can make those decisions. what i cannot accept his unequal treatment to the u.s. citizens in puerto rico. i'm sure the governor would expect the same as well so we are doing damage assessment,
12:53 pm
recognizing that this has been a huge catastrophe. had the storm gone through any other state, no matter how modern the system was, it would have been catastrophic, and this is what we want to say. we don't want this conversation to be diluted by just saying some of the parts were old and so forth. this is the top ten storm in the history of measured storms in the atlantic. it passed right through puerto rico, leaving no place on turn. it was a slow storm, slower than the average about eight or 9 miles per hour. the devastation was significant. it is my job to make sure you have all of the information and then my expectation is that we get treated equally to all of the u.s. citizens and all the other states. >> thank you. >> thank you madam chair for
12:54 pm
holding the hearing, and let me thank all of our panelists for their hard work on these very difficult circumstances. madam chair, today's hearing is enormously important and we have responsibility for the work we do that goes above and beyond immediate disasters. let me start off, please, everybody forgive me in the short amount of time, i will be kurt and ask you to be brief. let me ask mr. walker in general, given the fact that two months after the hurricanes, 50% of the people in puerto rico continue not have electricity and many people acting in water in the virgin islands. as i understand it is 31% that have electricity. in synchronizing the numbers something like 16% that have electricity. we are the wealthiest, most powerful country in the history of the world.
12:55 pm
do we really think we are doing a great job when half the people in puerto rico and 80% of people in the virgin islands still have electricity two months after the storm? >> understand the difficulties. it's tough train and all that but we really think were doing a great job? >> i think there is a team of people between the federal government and the puerto rican government as well as the virgin island that are working through the challenges associated with this. i believe under the leadership of the governor and leadership of fema that they are mobilizin mobilizing. >> i got all that. i don't mean to be harsh but we are the most powerful nation on earth. should two months after these disasters half the people in puerto rico and some 70 or 80 people still not have electricity? >> general jackson.
12:56 pm
>> senator, think we get the mission assignment on the 30th of september. this is not a mission that only affects us. we don't have preordered contracts and we have to go through federal acquisition process to allow us to get the right capability to the island amounts what we've done. we've gotten, i think we've moved, this is not a criticism. i understand. you have a bureaucracy you have to deal with in protocol. it's tough. all i'm saying is someone is looking down, this is the united states america two months later, people on these islands are living in misery. i think we could've done better and we must do better. number two, when he say to the chair, i agree with much of her initial remarks except she didn't mention two words in of climate change. my guess is that who no knows what tomorrow will bring, but there is every reason to believe that your islands may
12:57 pm
suffer even worse disasters in the future. and we are all in agreement that it is insane to rebuild the way it was. we all grew that. let me ask the governor, you mentioned some of the solar installations work quite well. if you had your choice and could move it the way you wanted to, what percentage of the virgin islands would be sustainable within ten years. >> we started talking 30% by 2025 and before the hurricanes hit we had one third of that installed. we want to put 21 more in additional wind and solar and power generated units with micro- grids on the three islands. >> do think the future, would it be unrealistic to say that in 20 years you can be one 100% sustainable?
12:58 pm
>> i will not say that's unrealistic. i'm hopeful i will live another 30 and i'm hopeful by then we are 40% or 50% renewable. >> okay. right now, thank you for your hospitality. i know we had a brief roadside meeting for five minutes. i wanted to thank the mayor for her hospitality when i was in san juan as well. right now, i don't understand this, you are the. [inaudible] that is the island of the sun, but right now puerto rico, about 2% of your electricity is generated by solar. >> by renewables. >> yes. >> how does that happen, and you talk about 20% being solar, that seems to be a pretty conservative goal. >> in the short term we talk about 20 to 25%. in the immediate aftermath of rebuilding after the storm, but certainly, and very much committed to renewables in puerto rico. i just think a lot of the
12:59 pm
effort we been making with some of the stakeholders is challenging them to prove that their technologies can be scalable to a size of puerto rico. if it were up to me i one 100% back renewables in puerto rico. >> let me just conclude basing this. today we are dealing with the immediate crisis that we have. you have in puerto rico, a poverty rate of 46%. unemployment rate is twice the national average, healthcare statistics, we had a brief discussion on that is a disaster high school graduation rates are near the bottom of the united states, but perhaps, and this is an issue we have to discuss, puerto rico is struggling with an unsustainable $75 billion that $49 billion in pension
1:00 pm
obligations. more than one third of that debt is held by wall street funds that are getting interest rates of up to 34% on bonds they purchased for as little as 29 cents on the dollar. is that correct? this is an issue this committee must deal with. thank you. >> senator mansion. >> my heart goes out with all of you. i would like to briefly touch on the now canceled contract, we do a lot of this type of work. the whitefish energy is assisting those from montana. they were awarded a contract and i'll go through a few things.
1:01 pm
under the terms of the contract, they charge $319. hour for alignment, that is a rate 17 times higher than the national average. i understand an emergency situation, things are stressful, understand all that and also the cost on the island, for example, whitefish is billing $4000 an hour to rent a helicopter. that's twice the rate of ongoing. they're charging $80. hour which is more than double. they charge $332 for hotel rooms and workers. the thing that i look at when i see this whole thing, i understand how this could have happened so quickly, but then i found out that the request for the mutual assistance
1:02 pm
which goes out immediately, usually when you are going to hit, you know you have a high probability of getting hit, you asked for this assistance, but governor, i think mr. rodriguez waited six weeks before he made that request. >> thank you for the opportunity. let me stress, i immediately canceled or called for the cancellation of the contract even without the result of the investigation, recognizing that it was in the best interest of the people in puerto rico. in terms of the mutual aid, you had to put this into context of where we were at this junction. there was a lot of information and assistance going to other areas. it was established to attend
1:03 pm
to the considerations of the storm. once the process went through, we went, we had alternatives with the core and once we saw that wasn't going to be enough, there is a solicitation in terms of that. i am a willing participant in this effort that investigations need to go on and whatever comes out of them. >> i'm really not here, i'm just saying a disaster plan in my little state of west virginia, we had disaster plan. we are subjected to flooding. i had very challenging state and when you look at the geographical location, we were ready and prepared. it seems like your people would've reached out to the
1:04 pm
edison, being prepared because you know that's the first thing, that's all i'm saying on that end. this contract went out quicker than the request for help from the professionals that could've brought you a whole different rate structure. >> senator, the ceo will be in this panel. >> thank you. i have fondness for all the islands. one of our colleagues said that you can continue to do the same thing over and over you're going to bearing some wind and doing some things differently. right now your price is about 32 cents. kilowatt hour. we knocked about three times higher than the national average. petroleum is being relied upon
1:05 pm
a great deal. i know you're trying to reduce that. with this disaster that we've had throughout all three of the islands, are people more willing to understand we've gotta make changes to prepare for the next time we get ahead? >> think of that question for the answer is yes. this is why we are pushing, we were before the storm, but more aggressive and we are pushing renewables. we want to work with u.s. doe in terms of how we access natural gas. we have made a decision and advised the community, we are going to not put all the generation systems in the same location. we want to have microcredit. some of that property that we received in our settlement, we want to use that. the short answer is there's a lot of opportunity both for myself, my delegate, my legislature to make the tough
1:06 pm
decision to strengthen building codes and the way we deliver power. >> my time is running out. the expertise that we should be able to give you with some of the changes in technology and some of that sort, i know sometimes you run into opposition because of how you run your grid systems or utilities. if we can break through. >> when 80% of the people can't turn on their lights, they are willing to do anything to get their lives back on. >> thank you. senator king i'd like to welcome the delegates here. i know she is a strong advocate for her constituents
1:07 pm
in the islands. welcome to the two former governors. i apologize, i was at another hearing, i didn't hear your initial statement for are the virgin islands on track to get the aid they need? is it being a package with puerto rico? what's the status of the federal aid. >> the support from the federal system has been good for the virgin islands in terms of how we respond to life issues. we are working through fema on the shelter in place program. we have some difficulty they are. the feds are putting more money but we want to restrict the amount for permanent repair. were trying to work that out. our presence here and your help is essential in terms of
1:08 pm
setting aside dollars and changes in the statute that rebuild as is. >> basically it's on track but there will be a damage assessment and request for aid. >> yes. >> thank you. >> a couple technical questions, i was assayed by your testimony that some of the solar farms survived and others didn't. i noticed in the photo that it appears the damages broken blades. has there been an assessment on whether all the towers withstood this storm? tell me about when and where there are windfarms. >> there was devastation
1:09 pm
across some of the windfarms. some the blades went out and some of the towers as well. similar to what the governor saw we said severe devastation for other areas. >> the question i'm getting at is properly designed renewables. how about rooftop solar? >> there are some mitigation strategies. those turned out to survived very well. >> rooftop did well. >> yes, and in fact, senator because of that, in terms of the reconstructions on the schools, we will work with the water and power authority and use the roofs on the schools to permi create micro grids
1:10 pm
for the schools and put solar powers on them. >> i think we all agree that it doesn't make sense to rebuild the 1980s grid will have an opportunity with renewables and the economics of renewables are so much better. make that decision. >> you do by changing language in stafford. >> i never knew i had the power. >> you make the changes that permitted in the stafford act or in the appropriation and the set-aside for the money, if you authorize that. >> that's the second time you anticipated my question. clearly we need to amend it so we don't clearly rebuild what was there before. even if stafford is amended, who is when you make the decision? is that the power authority of the islands? >> once the authorities in place and the dollars are in
1:11 pm
place, we will work with fema and hud through the process that every other state goes through and setting up with the new profile should be. we will work with the federal agencies to make the right decision. >> technical question for both islands. the transmission lines went down? >> yes. >> so that the vulnerability gets back to the idea of distributed micro grids so you're not so dependent. >> yes. >> actually does. and portico, most of the generation is done in the south and consumption in the north. you get lost in efficiency. it is an opportunity to flip that script. >> just to add, the u.s.
1:12 pm
virgin islands, this is the fifth time the united states government is paying to rebuild the power distribution system on an aerial basis. this is 300 plus million just under reconstruction. that puts the underground in the main corridor, second quarter and having the micro grids and some to make it resilient that could withstand these 185 mile-per-hour went. >> i appreciate your testimony. i look forward to working with you. i think this is an extraordinary opportunity for our country to see what a modern grid can and should look like. >> we have a second panel that we need to get to. i do think we have great information that i have host of questions i would like to
1:13 pm
ask each of you. i'm prepared to stay for another hour or hour and half into a second round of this panel if colleagues want that. otherwise, i would suggest we move to panel number two. chairman, thank you. we appreciate your leadership in think you both. come on. [inaudible conversations]
1:14 pm
thank you very much. thank you. [inaudible conversations] thank you. we began the second panel with distinguished group of individuals who are prepared to continue the conversation relating to the aftermath of hurricanes irma and maria on puerto rico and the u.s. virgin islands. the second panel will be led by mr. ricardo who is the executive director for puerto rico electric power authority. welcome. thank you for being here.


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on