Breakers Where the General Blackout Happened Were To Be Replaced in December 2021 by PREPA

The area in the switchyard where the Central Costa Sur fire occurred, which caused the general blackout last Wednesday, should have been renovated four months ago, in December 2021, according to the original infrastructure plan through which the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) will access $10.7 billion in federal recovery funds. But, after LUMA’s arrival in June 2021, as operator of the transmission and distribution system, the processes were delayed. The completion date for the repairs at the plant was postponed to February 2023, according to documents from the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), that the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) reviewed. 

Avería en breaker de salida de Unidad #5 de Costa Sur al 230kv ocasionó la salida de las unidades 5 y 6 de la Central. El sistema de protección del sistema eléctrico sacó de servicio el resto de las unidades que estaban generando.— Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica (@AEEONLINE) April 7, 2022

The recovery work in Costa Sur, Guayanilla, included replacing four switches of the 230-kilowatt transmission lines because they have already completed their useful life and are obsolete.

Local and Federal Negligence Enables Environmental Crime in the Bahía Jobos Reserve in Salinas

For decades, an environmental crime has been taking place in the Bahía Jobos Reserve in Salinas before the eyes of many and implicates multiple branches of the government of Puerto Rico and the federal government that have been consistently negligent in carrying out their duties, an investigation by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) revelead. 

The matter at hand is the illegal occupation and construction, the deforestation of mangroves, the filling of wetlands and the sanitary discharges to the sea in an area of the high ecological value of the terrestrial maritime zone. There is a conflict over the land ownership where the reserve is located. To date, there is no study related to the title for the land, where there are occupants with deeds that refer to the 1898 Treaty of Paris, Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DRNA, in Spanish) Secretary Rafael Machargo confirmed in an interview with the CPI. The Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, whose 2,800 acres belong mainly to the DRNA, was acquired with funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and has been managed with federal money since 1981, so there is joint jurisdiction over it. It is the only one of its kind in the Caribbean and one of only 29 in the United States and its territories.

Few Changes Made in Puerto Rico to Access Health Information and Services in a Hurricane

The Department of Health, responsible for inspecting and approving the emergency evacuation plans of all the island’s hospitals, only keeps them for the three hospitals that it runs. The agency’s Deputy Secretary’s Office for the Regulation and Accreditation of Health Facilities (SARAFS, in Spanish) does not keep a copy of the evacuation plans that it is supposed to have previously evaluated, and that could mean the difference between life and death for patients and employees. The information surfaced as part of a lawsuit in which the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) asked the DH for several documents and protocols related to emergency events. “As part of the inspections, SARAFS personnel check that said plans comply with all the established requirements. However, a physical copy, on paper, digital or in any other way stored in an electronic device(s) of these plans is not delivered to SARAFS personnel, nor is it received by said personnel, nor is it retained in the record of the facilities that work in the SARAFS, so the Department of Health does not have them,” according to the certification that the DH submitted to the San Juan Superior Court as part of the case.

Expensive Evaluation to ‘Transform’ University of Puerto Rico’s Medical Sciences Campus

Since Mayda Velasco Bonilla became chairwoman of the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) Governing Board (JG, in Spanish) in August 2021, the members have never voted to approve the contracts that add up to $1.2 million so far this fiscal year to cover the operations of the Office of Institutional Transformation (OTI, in Spanish), in charge of implementing the institution’s Fiscal Plan. The JG’s regulations establish that said contracts must be approved by its members, who were not consulted about the selection of the External Collaborators Committee members that evaluate the operations of the Medical Sciences Campus (RCM, in Spanish). The Committee was created to “identify deficiencies and areas of opportunity in the RCM,” as stated in a contract between the Governing Board and Cedrela Consulting Group, a company that would analyze the Committee members’ recommendations. 

Cedrela and Bluhaus Capital were the first companies to benefit from OTI contracts. Before being hired by the JG for $350,000, Bluhaus had contracts with the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (AAFAF, in Spanish) to develop the UPR’s Fiscal Plan and structural reforms, while the JG contracted Cedrela for $50,400 to advise in managing projects that could affect the Plan. The members of the External Collaborators Committee were chosen by Velasco Bonilla, who informed the JG about the only two in-person meetings that the group had had, which have cost the UPR $60,884.

Medioscopio Project Kicks Off With Youth in Loíza

The Medioscopio project — an initiative to develop critical media consumers promoted by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish), with the collaboration of the Museum of Contemporary Art and its MAC en el Barrio program, and ASPIRA Puerto Rico — got underway a few weeks ago with the participation of youth from the Belén Blanco de Zequeira School in Loíza. The workshops began at the Gregorio Lanzó Cirino Community Center in the Parcelas Suárez sector and will take participants on tours and exercises through the Bosque de Piñones and the University of Puerto Rico. This pilot program, coordinated by journalist Laura Moscoso, also seeks to foster skills so that participants can develop their own stories as citizen reporters. “We kicked off Medioscopio in Loíza with the extraordinary participation of young people and teachers that filled us with inspiration. Our goal with this effort is to develop active youth in their community by offering them strategies to repel misinformation and tools to tell their stories,” said Carla Minet, executive director of the CPI.

Pineapple Country: the Agrochemicals that Pollute the Panama Canal and Beyond

The farmer looks down from the top of the slope. The dark-skinned and bulky man is dressed in gray overalls and a wide-brimmed hat. This is part of the gear used in pineapple crops that is meant to protect him when applying pesticides and other hazardous products. At the foot of the slope, lies Isadora Rojas’ house. Pineapple crowns peek out from the opposite plot.