Hundreds in Puerto Rico protest proposed increase in electricity bills

Hundreds of individuals together with spiritual leaders, economists, academics and retirees on Wednesday protested a proposed increase to already excessive electrical bills {that a} rising variety of folks in the U.S. territory are struggling to pay.

The group marched towards the governor’s mansion, the place they hoisted Puerto Rican flags up excessive and held up indicators warning that an increase in energy bills would result in an unsustainable rise in the island’s already costly value of dwelling.

The proposed increase is a part of a debt restructuring plan to tug Puerto Rico’s energy firm out of chapter, an effort that has failed a number of occasions as bondholders threaten to sue to recuperate their investments. If authorised, the present residential charge of 25 cents per kilowatt hour would practically double over the span of 30 years.

A federal decide overseeing the chapter course of held a listening to Wednesday on the difficulty after delaying approval of the proposed debt restructuring plan.

Residential electricity charges in Puerto Rico are presently nearly double these in the U.S. mainland, whereas industrial and industrial charges are greater than twice as excessive, in line with the U.S. Power Info Administration.

The worry of presumably larger energy bills prompted many to affix Wednesday’s protest, together with Rev. Lizzette Gabriel, bishop of Puerto Rico’s Methodist Church.

“The upper the vitality prices, the much less cash a household has to outlive, and never everybody has cash to put in a photo voltaic system,” she stated.

She anxious that costlier energy bills would additionally drive small companies to shut and church buildings to chop again on their companies. Greater than 40% of Puerto Rico’s 3.2 million inhabitants reside beneath the poverty charge, in contrast with a 19% charge for Mississippi, the poorest U.S. state.

Many in Puerto Rico are also outraged concerning the proposed increase given ongoing energy outages blamed on a crumbling energy grid that was not correctly maintained and has not been rebuilt since Hurricane Maria ravaged the U.S. territory in September 2017. Energy outages had been reported throughout the island on Wednesday amid heavy rain and lightning produced by a powerful tropical wave in the area.

Cristina Miranda Palacios, govt director of the nonprofit League of Puerto Rican Cities, stated the proposed increase is just not truthful or acceptable.

“It’s inconceivable that the folks, together with essentially the most marginalized and economically deprived populations, need to bear this value for a extremely questionable high quality of service,” she stated.

Puerto Ricans say they don’t seem to be accountable for the actions of presidency officers who for many years accrued greater than $70 billion in public debt by means of corruption, mismanagement and extreme borrowing.

In 2015, the U.S. territory’s authorities introduced it was unable to pay its debt, and in 2017, it filed for the most important U.S. municipal chapter in historical past. The debt of practically all of the island’s authorities companies has since been restructured, besides that of Puerto Rico’s energy firm. It’s the largest held by any state company at greater than $10 billion.

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