Puerto Rico to sever relationship with contractor after island-wide power outage

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Last fall, when post-hurricane conditions were far worse, Cobra Acquisition won its initial contract in Puerto Rico when most attention was focused on how a tiny company based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana was able to secure a major contract to restore power on the island. "It feels like the hurricane side effects will never end".

Wednesday's power failure was the second major interruption of service in less than two weeks, and the island's governor said in a tweet that Puerto Rico's power authority should cancel its agreement with the subcontractor that was responsible for the latest outage.

In March, six months since Hurricane Maria walloped the island, Gov. Rossello said that the electrical grid being put up now will be weaker than the grid that existed before the storm, adding that it could take almost five years for a stronger grid to be built.


Officials said it could take 24 to 36 hours to fully restore power to more than 1.4 million customers as outrage grew across the island about the state of Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority.

PREPA's interim director, Justo González, said Wednesday that Cobra Energy, a US private contractor, hit the transmission line with a crane, causing multiple power plants to shut down in quick succession. Meanwhile, the power company said its own customer service center was out of service and asked people to go online or use the phone.

"Tesla batteries are now live & delivering power at 662 locations in Puerto Rico", he tweeted. In a statement, it said a 140-foot electric transmission tower in southern Puerto Rico collapsed on Tuesday and fell across support wires of an adjacent tower in "an extremely congested" electric transmission corridor.


The outage snarled traffic across the island, interrupted classes and work, and forced dozens of businesses to temporarily close, including the largest mall and popular tourist attractions like a 16th century fort in the historic part of Puerto Rico's capital. Rosselló is pushing a bill to privatize the power system. He said Tesla already did similar work on smaller islands.

The power outage has called into question a baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians scheduled for Wednesday night in San Juan.

"We respond to get things back up to normal", Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite said. "We are prepared. Every area of Hiram Bithorn Stadium can run on generators that have a capacity to run for 48 hours", Blakeman said.


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