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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
HomeNewsLocal governmentPlaskett Releases Statement On WAPA State Of Emergency Declaration

Plaskett Releases Statement On WAPA State Of Emergency Declaration

(Photo courtesy Facebook)

In response to Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.’s declaration of a state of emergency for the Virgin Islands utility system, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett reaffirms her willingness to work with Bryan, his administration and the 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands as they contend with the continued struggle to operate an efficient Water and Power Authority, according to a press release.

Plaskett urges all parties to work together to create a stable utility system that supports the people and businesses of the Virgin Islands, the release stated.

“Today, Governor Bryan declared a state of emergency regarding the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority and the recent rationing of power across our territory necessitated by the Authority’s inability to meet its financial obligations,” stated Plaskett. “Transparency is important, and I recognize that such a declaration is difficult to make, but I appreciate the Governor addressing the real time concerns of Virgin Islanders as it pertains to WAPA. From 2019, I indicated that a state of emergency was a real option, and since then my team and I have made ourselves available to the local government to address our utility needs. This year alone, I have met repeatedly with WAPA’s CEO, Andy Smith and WAPA management to monitor WAPA’s financial situation and effectively direct federal support to the authority.”

“Additionally, I have directly advocated on the Virgin Islands Energy Office’s application for the Biden Administration’s Solar for All program, a competitive grant that my office was happy to support the VIEO in pursuing – not only writing letters of support but calling on the EPA Administrator Regan and the Biden administration to support,” Plaskett stated.

“Since the 2017 hurricanes, my office has worked on WAPA’s behalf to secure funding for the territory in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, in the Inflation Reduction Act to include WAPA and other Virgin Islands government agencies as eligible for ‘Direct Pay’ incentives to fund clean energy production and delivery.  I have also advocated and assisted to secure improved FEMA cost share waivers on major projects, which is resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional federal funding immediately flowing to finance the rebuilding of our water and power infrastructure,” she stated.

“In February, that cost share improvement meant WAPA received an additional $26,957,481 in federal funding for hazard mitigation on permanent repairs of the electrical distribution system as well as a further $17,724,516 for other needs; a month later WAPA received an additional $10,097,679.69 for permanent repairs to the St. John electrical distribution systems and infrastructure, and an additional $1,053,776.86 for the replacement of the Richmond Power Plant Historic Warehouse due to cost share adjustments. Nonetheless, we know these additional sources of funding are for long term projects and do not solve the immediate cash flow problems facing WAPA if its largest users, our government agencies, are unable to pay their bills,” Plaskett said.

“As I stated in my letter to Governor Bryan and then Senate President Francis in 2019 (see letter here), declaring a state of emergency for WAPA and energy within our territory was appropriate then. It is even more so now. The people of the Virgin Islands deserve affordable, reliable power. My team and I have consistently advocated for WAPA and are demonstrably dedicated to supporting the authority in becoming solvent, as well as working with the Virgin Islands Energy Office to help the authority to meet the energy needs of our territory,” she said.

“I also look forward to the successful closing of the $140 million payment transaction to VITOL with the funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). WAPA’s relationship with VITOL over the past 10 years has been an unbalanced, problematic one, with VITOL’s continued efforts to extract what appear to be usury rates on a past debt. I am hopeful that the closure of WAPA’s chapter with VITOL will enable the authority to go back to the open market in order to consider cheaper fuel options for its operations,” according to Plaskett.

“My office stands ready to work at the federal level with Governor Bryan, the Legislature of the Virgin Islands and the Virgin Islands Energy Office to provide support in resolving the crisis at WAPA,” Plaskett concluded.

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