Washington D.C. – U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) requested Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm information on her four trips to Puerto Rico and the frequency and duration of her visits related to rebuilding the power grid.
McMorris Rodgers, along with Representative Morgan Griffith (Va.), chairman of the committee’s subcommittee on Investigations, sent a letter to Granholm on Monday requesting details on all the trips she made, including those to the island.
“The frequency and duration of these trips raise concerns regarding your attention to your other duties, particularly in light of climbing energy costs and intensifying threats to the United States’ energy independence. We understand the importance of stabilizing and modernizing Puerto Rico’s electric grid but question whether your frequent and extended presence is critical to these activities,” the Republican lawmakers said.
President Joe Biden tasked Granholm with leading the federal team seeking to accelerate the rebuilding of the power grid. Granholm was already overseeing the Puerto Rico-100 Plan, an initiative seeking to help the island achieve its goal of having a fully renewable energy system by 2050.
In addition, Granholm will oversee the disbursement of nearly $1 billion to install solar panels and battery storage on the rooftops of low-income and/or disabled people?s households in Puerto Rico.
Granholm has visited Puerto Rico four times, including last February and March.
But McMorris Rodgers and Griffith also mentioned in their letter Secretary Granholm’s trips to France, Australia, Mexico, and Singapore, and questioned why she visited “these international locations” before visiting Eastern Washington’s Hanford nuclear reservation site, “one of the most costly and challenging cleanup sites in your agency’s Office of Environmental Management complex”.
McMorris’ office issued a press release stating that the Republican majority on the Energy and Commerce Committee ” Probe Energy Secretary on Frequent International Travel”
Congressional Republicans asked Granholm to provide information by May 8. The information includes the “names and job titles of all staff, including security, support staff, and advance teams, who accompanied Secretary Granholm on each trip” she has taken since taking office in February 2021.
They also request “itineraries for the Secretary and all accompanying staff for each trip. – An itemized list of expenses incurred during the duration of the Secretary’s travels for herself and all accompanying staff, including transportation to and from her destination. – A list of official activities and meetings undertaken during the Secretary’s travels and all accompanying meeting minutes.”
The leader of the Democratic minority on the House Natural Resources Committee, Ra?l Grijalva (Arizona), said Republicans were seeking “scandals” where there are none.”
For Grijalva, Puerto Rico has almost no energy security and one of the highest energy costs in the United States. The federal government has made historic investments to repair and modernize Puerto Rico’s broken energy system, but progress has been very slow in using these funds for the energy resilience projects they were intended for. If none of this is reason enough for the Secretary of Energy to spend more time in Puerto Rico interacting with residents and elected officials, what in the mind of the Republican Party can be the reason?” asked Grijalva.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rican Democratic Congresswoman Nydia Vel?zquez (N.Y.) stated that “It’s troubling that the GOP sees Secretary Granholm’s focus on Puerto Rico’s recovery as a problem.”
But Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner in Washington Jenniffer Gonz?lez, a Republican, defended the probe; however, she spoke as if the committee were demanding information about the process of rebuilding the power grid.
“The fact that the House Energy Committee is asking for details and information about the recovery in Puerto Rico is important. Especially with the billions in federal funds for the Department of Energy to lead the effort to rebuild the power grid,” she said.
Commissioner Gonz?lez affirmed that “we all want to know the details of spending, disbursement of funds, and specific dates for the transformation of the electricity grid,” and that it is normal for Congress to exercise its oversight role over Executive Branch agencies.
She added that although the funds were allocated years ago, progress on each energy project, its disbursement, and when the island will have a robust electricity system are still unknown.
Morovis Mayor Carmen Maldonado praised Secretary Granholm’s interest in rebuilding Puerto Rico’s grid in a press release. Maldonado said she would send a letter to McMorris Rodgers and Griffith to explain the importance of these visits.
“I thank President Joe Biden and Secretary Granholm for this initiative, and of course, I have to defend it in the face of partisan criticism from the opposition. Congress members Cathy McMorris Rogers and Morgan Griffith do not know what it is like to have lived through the tragedies of Hurricanes Irma, Mar?a, and later Fiona. As we work to forge a better energy future for Puerto Rico, we must work with all of our allies at the state, federal and nonprofit levels,” she said.
Puerto Rico News – from PR Tribune