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PSC Releases WAPA Funds for Hurricane Relief

Oct. 25, 2008 — The V.I. Public Services Commission wrapped up its three-day workshop Saturday, giving the V.I. Water and Power Authority permission to dip into its self-insurance fund for Hurricane Omar expenses.
PSC controls the purse strings for WAPA's self-insurance and hazard mitigation fund, from which WAPA will now be able to draw up to $3 million to pay for expenses related to damage from Hurricane Omar. Omar left downed lines and poles on St. Croix that WAPA crews were still working to repair nine days later.
According to WAPA spokesperson Cassandra Dunn, the utility is nearly 94 percent restored on St. Croix as of Saturday evening.
WAPA expects to see some reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency once a disaster has been declared, but FEMA has not yet made the declaration.
The impact of falling oil prices on customer bills is a topic that commissioners said they are continually asked about by consumers. Consumers want to know why their WAPA bill has not dropped with the price of oil.
"This is a question that is constantly asked of me," Commissioner M. Thomas Jackson said.
The answer lies in timing. The board discussed that oil prices quoted in the television and print media are per-barrel crude prices and are the prices for that day or week. WAPA buys fuel as it needs it and the oil that is being used today may have been purchased a month ago, when the fuel was still at the higher price.
The PSC also discussed a number of other related issues including:
— WAPA's long-term planning for infrastructure replacement of desalinization equipment;
— WAPA has down-selected the number of companies from whom they expect proposals for renewable energy solutions;
–WAPA's energy diversification goals;
–the status of the Heat Recovery Steam Generators on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
The PSC also appointed former U.S. Attorney David Nissman as hearing examiner in the rate case against V.I. Telephone Co. Nissman has considerable experience in administrative law and in mediation, which made him an attractive candidate for the task.
Thomas K. Moore, who had been appointed hearing examiner, resigned because of his obligations as a delegate to the constitutional convention.
There will be two hearings, one on St. Croix and one on St. Thomas, and a decision is expected not later than Dec. 3, according to the commission's outside counsel Boyd Sprehn.
The workshop, held at the Westin Resort and Villas on St. John, began Thursday night. It allowed the commission to meet with principals of all of the utilities that it oversees, with the exception of the Waste Management Authority, according to PSC Chairman Joseph Boschulte.
Having a centralized meeting place realized cost and time efficiencies, Boschulte said.
PSC members attending today's workshop were Boschulte, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Verne C. David and Jackson. Absent were Sirri Hamid and Alecia M. Wells.
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