Monday, July 23, 2018

Internal turmoil slows rebuilding of Puerto Rico's power grid

Internal turmoil slows rebuilding of Puerto Rico's power grid

Internal turmoil slows rebuilding of Puerto Rico's power grid
Marta Bermudez Robles' home in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, has been without power since Hurricanes Irma and Maria. (Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo / Associated Press)
Ten months after Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico's electric grid, the local agency responsible for rebuilding it is in chaos and more than $1 billion in federal funds meant to strengthen the rickety system has gone unspent, according to contractors and U.S. officials who are anxious to make progress before the next hurricane.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority has seen two chief executive officers and four board members resign in less than a week in a messy fight over how much the bankrupt agency should pay its CEO. The agency's fourth CEO since the hurricane lasted less than 24 hours on the job last week before resigning amid public outrage over his $750,000 salary.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello of the New Progressive Party named the former head of Puerto Rico's water and sewer agency Wednesday as the fifth head of the electric company since Maria, at a salary of $250,000 a year. Jose Ortiz starts work Monday.
"In spite of missteps in the past, everybody will see that we have the right person at the right time," Rossello said.
The turmoil has fueled delays in launching $1.4 billion worth of work that includes replacing creaky wooden power poles vulnerable to collapse in the next storm, the chief federal official in charge of rebuilding Puerto Rico told the Associated Press.
"There is no permanent work that's been done," said Mike Byrne, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's assistant administrator for field operations. "What I'm worried about is the next level, the permanent work, the going in and building the grid the way I've been tasked to do by Congress."
From shut-down medical equipment to the spread of waterborne diseases, the cascading effects of power grid failure likely led to hundreds of deaths in the aftermath of the Category 4 hurricane, although the exact number remains a subject of debate and ongoing investigation.
"The one reason why so many people died in the aftermath of the hurricane was the lack of energy," said Sen. Eduardo Bhatia of the opposition Popular Democratic Party. "And the lack of energy comes from how fragile the system was because of years of neglect."
Several hundred Puerto Ricans remained without power Thursday in the longest-running blackout in U.S. history. The entire island remains vulnerable because much of the massive damage from the storm was resolved with temporary fixes that are liable to fail in the next hurricane.
These include thousands of weakened and damaged poles and power lines that were reused in the absence of new supplies. In some cases, lines were bolted to trees.
The Puerto Rico power authority notified three large mainland U.S. companies in March that they had been selected to carry out $1.4 billion worth of contracts that include finishing emergency restoration work and beginning the long-term task of overhauling the power grid. Nearly four months later, the agency has not issued the final orders required to send the linemen into the field to do the permanent work, according to federal officials and some contractors.
The power authority has not explained why, and a spokesman did not return repeated AP calls for comment.
As with virtually all post-hurricane disaster relief in Puerto Rico, the work is contracted and paid for by bankrupt local agencies using money disbursed by FEMA from billions appropriated by Congress.
The government’s major contracts are reviewed by the board created by Congress to oversee Puerto Rico's finances and bankruptcy-like proceedings. In May, it found problems with the contracts of two of the power companies chosen to do the first stages of permanent work. These include vague descriptions of the scope of the project and a lack of detailed evaluation of costs.
Ortiz, the power authority's new head, indicated potential problems with at least one contractor: Cobra, a subsidiary of Oklahoma-based Mammoth Energy. Cobra has been awarded more than $1.8 billion in federal money, at rates of about $4,000 per worker per day in many cases. Ortiz said the cost of the contractors would be getting a second look.
"It will be reevaluated," he told reporters Wednesday. "Certainly the numbers merit being looked at very closely."
Cobra representatives declined to comment.
The problems at the power authority are prompting calls for urgent change to Puerto Rico's decades-old system of putting its power generation and transmission under the control of a government agency run by the governor's appointees rather than an independent, government-regulated corporation, as occurs in virtually all other parts of the United States.
Rossello has proposed privatizing the generation of energy and awarding concessions to private contractors for power transmission and distribution. Puerto Rico legislators have approved a measure that would allow for those changes, and they expect to approve another bill in the coming months to establish a regulatory framework.
For many on and off the island, that isn't fast enough.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority "needs to be depoliticized in order to be a functional, modern and reliable utility. The people of Puerto Rico deserve at least that much," said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who oversees the issue as chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. The committee will hold a July 25 hearing on the power company's future.
Agency employees say that for decades, near-total control by the governor's office has led to the power authority being stuffed with unqualified, politically connected managers. Political influence also drove a string of unrealistic, expensive projects that were canceled by subsequent administrations.
The electric company was also used as a piggy bank for the commonwealth's government by providing years of power to government agencies that didn't pay their bills, and giving highly discounted rates to important island businesses like major hotels.
Essential maintenance like trimming trees back from power lines and replacing decrepit poles was delayed for years, even decades.
In May 2017, Puerto Rico filed for the biggest municipal bankruptcy ever in the U.S. The government carries a $70-billion public debt load, which includes more than $9 billion held by Puerto Rico's power company.
Bankrupt and debilitated by mismanagement, the Puerto Rican electric grid was already in a state of near-collapse when Maria devastated the island in September and left millions without power.
That has been followed by a cascade of CEO departures at the power authority.
First to go was Ricardo Ramos, amid allegations that he hired an underqualified power contractor, Whitefish. His temporary successor was replaced by Walter Higgins, a veteran power executive.
But on July 11, just four months into the job, Higgins resigned. Among the factors influencing his decision, he said, was that compensation details stipulated in his contract could not be met. A month earlier, Puerto Rico's justice secretary had said it would be illegal for a public employee like Higgins to receive bonuses on top of his $450,000 salary.
Power company officials then named board member Rafael Diaz as the new CEO, with a $750,000-a-year salary. Diaz lasted only a day, resigning along with four other board members after Gov. Rossello criticized his salary and said those unwilling to adjust their compensation expectations amid an 11-year recession should step down.
The rapid turnover has set off alarms among ordinary Puerto Ricans and criticism from Rossello's political opponents.
"The economy is being affected, the quality of life is being affected and the lives of people who depend on the electrical system are being put at risk," said Rolando Ortiz, who oversees an association of mayors from the Popular Democratic Party.
Byrne, the FEMA assistant administrator, said stability was urgently needed at the power authority to protect Puerto Rico from future disasters.
"This is a whole machine of activity that needs to take place," Byrne said. "It needs a director, it needs leadership, it needs capability."

CRISIS\EMERGENCY The 2018 Farm Bill is a crisis of democracy

The social contract between our government and its people is hanging on by a thread. If the 2018 Farm Bill is any indication of the strength of that last thread, we are in trouble.

With its origins in the New Deal, the Farm Bill’s original three goals were to keep food prices fair for both farmers and consumers, ensure an adequate food supply and protect and sustain the country’s natural resources

The current iteration seeks to dramatically increase food insecurity by weakening SNAP, a proven nutritional lifeline, harming working families and slashing support for small scale and sustainable farmers. We are a far cry now from its original intent to link the survival and viability of farming and rural life with the reduction of hunger and food insecurity in the cities.

How the farm bill is currently shaped – who has the most influence on the policymakers – exposes a crisis of democracy.

Let’s look at the numbers. Even as unemployment has decreased to a remarkably low 3.8 percent, the percentage of households that face food insecurity has stayed at around 12 percent over the past three decades. Additionally, today fewer than 2 percent of Americans are farmers and only 34 House districts (out 435) are rural. Meanwhile, agriculture is the second largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gas emissions and is a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss.

Why does this matter? The Farm Bill no longer sits on a three-legged stool of just economic, nutrition and environmental policies. Instead it props up false solutions to hunger by supporting the overproduction of commodities and intensive pesticide use while causing climate change and illustrating the insidious reach of corporate influence on our policymakers.

There are no long-term positive effects to the increased consolidation and commodification of food and agriculture. The rich get richer, while the environment, soil, vulnerable populations and consumers suffer. And tweaking the system to mitigate the ill effects of consolidated agriculture with technological fixes is a false solution. A system that exists to make money first and turn profit above all else, will never benefit the people or the planet.

It’s time for the Farm Bill to reintegrate the bi-partisan goals it once had—of economic stability, environmental protection and food security. We cannot end hunger and protect the environment without dismantling corporate influence on the Farm Bill. And it will take new, bold coalitions and alliances from the economic, racial, social and environmental justice sectors to disentangle the bill from these corporate interests and put it back in the hands of citizens.

Perhaps easier said than done. But we are up for the fight. We must not forget the real people and communities who stand to lose the most as the social contract continues to fray.

Alison Cohen is the senior director of programs at WhyHunger, providing support to grassroots organizations in the U.S. and social movements globally who are working toward addressing the root causes of hunger and the deep inequities of poverty at the intersection of agriculture and food systems, racism, health and climate change. She has worked with grassroots-led organizations in rural and urban farming communities for 25 years.


National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association 
1029 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 601
Washington, DC 20005
Office: (202) 628-8833
Fax No.: (202) 393-1816
Twitter: @NLFRTA

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Training. FEMA Releases Revised Course: IS-2900.a, National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) Overview:

FEMAs National Integration Center and the FEMA Emergency Management Institute are pleased to announce the release of a revised online course on 12 July:
  • IS-2900.a, National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) Overview: The National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) Overview course provides an introduction to the NDRF and establishes a common platform and forum for how the whole community builds, sustains, and coordinates delivery of recovery capabilities. The NDRF provides individuals supporting disaster recovery efforts with a foundation in National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) key concepts, guiding principles, and roles and responsibilities of NDRF leadership, including those of individuals, households and governmental entities at the local, State, tribal, and Federal levels, and between public, private and nonprofit sectors.
The intended audience for this course is the members of the whole community who have a role in providing recovery support – individuals, local, State, tribal, territorial, insular area governments and non-governmental organizations.
The revised course is available through the EMI website Students will still have access to tests for the legacy versions of this course (IS-2900) for 30 days.
An additional twenty-eight NIMS curriculum courses are in final revisions for NIMS 2017 and will be available as they are completed and approved for release.

Friday, July 13, 2018

MORE NEEDED....Locally and Globally. Incident Command System (ICS) Curricula Train-the-Trainer

More Train-the-Trainers needed across the board not only in ICS, but HSEEP, CERT, and areas vital to our community survivability, and sustainability locally and globally.

CHECK Prerequisites, especially M-140 for Instructor prerequisites and training.

BEMA International

Website Update
Training Opportunity - 1424
E0449 Incident Command System (ICS) Curricula
Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.
Emmitsburg, MD — You are subscribed to EMI News for FEMA. The following information has recently been updated, and is now available on
E0449 Incident Command System (ICS) Curricula: Train-the-Trainer
Course Description:
This course expands and improves student’s ability to deliver EMI Incident Command System (ICS) curricula. Students are provided training on the delivery of:
  • ICS-100: Introduction to the ICS
  • ICS-200: ICS for Single Resource and Initial Action Incidents
  • ICS 300: Intermediate ICS for Expanding Incidents
  • ICS-400: Advanced ICS for Command and General Staff—Complex Incidents
  • ICS-402 ICS Overview for Executives and Senior Officials
  • G0191, Emergency Operations Center/ICS Interface 
Emphasis is placed on classroom-based deliveries.  This includes compliance with the National Incident Management Training Program, adult education methodologies, deployment of course activities, pre- and post-testing, and ICS training program management.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

AIDF Global Summit 5-6 September 2018

Register for.........

Monday, July 9, 2018

Upcoming FEMA EMI Forums. July-August 2018

Date      Topic
Healthcare Facility Emergency Management.  Is it really a different animal?”: Best Practices in the Healthcare Community
The EMPP Recommended Professional Reading List and Book Club

EMI e-Forums are 1-hour, moderated, webinar discussion forums that provide an opportunity for EMI and the emergency management community to discuss matters of interest related to emergency management and national preparedness. EMI e-Forums facilitate a discussion by our whole-community partners, your peers, sharing their experiences in an informal and free exchange of ideas. The panel members are whole community, with topics relevant to whole community. These exchanges of ideas are free of charge and available to anyone who wishes to participate.

7/11/2018, Wednesday. Continuity Excellence Series (CES), Level I&II Continuity Professional Certificate Program

3 PM Eastern, on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 for the EMI e-Forum: Continuity Excellence Series.
Feel free to and please share this invitation.
When “Accepting” orDeclining the invitation, please select “Do Not Send Response,” if that option is available.
Conference call-in: 800-320-4330, PIN 107622
FEMA Emergency Management Institute -  Weekly EMI e-Forums - Wednesdays 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. EDT
EMI e-Forums are 1-hour, moderated, webinar discussion forums that provide an opportunity for EMI and the emergency management community to discuss matters of interest related to emergency management and national preparedness. EMI e-Forums facilitate a discussion by our whole-community partners, your peers, sharing their experiences in an informal and free exchange of ideas. The panel members are whole community, with topics relevant to whole community. These exchanges of ideas are free of charge and available to anyone who wishes to participate.
This week’s EMI e-Forum topic is on the Continuity Excellence Series (CES), Level I&II Continuity Professional Certificate Program. FEMA’s National Continuity Programs established the continuity professional certificate program, in April 2008 to help create a highly qualified corps of continuity professionals.  The Level I & II Series is designed for governmental and non-governmental continuity professionals throughout the whole community to support a viable continuity capability.  The Continuity Excellence Series is a combination of web-based independent study (IS) and In-person trainings organized in the FEMA regions and also available at the Emergency Management Institute.
This EMI e-Forum will feature the following panelist:
·        Cynthia Adams, COOP Specialist, FEMA National Continuity Programs
Date      Topic
Healthcare Facility Emergency Management.  Is it really a different animal?”: Best Practices in the Healthcare Community
The EMPP Recommended Professional Reading List and Book Club

Sunday, July 8, 2018

For the Future of the Next Generation. Time for a Giant Leap

CHANGE without SACRIFICE is an ILLUSION.      Lisa Ellis (2018)

Time to make the change by putting our Ego’s aside.
Time to make the change by accepting different approaches and not just ‘business as usual’.
Time to make the change by not accepting the rule that you need money (it helps) to make the change.
Time to make the change by changing your view for what the future can be.
Time to make the change by communities taking charge of their communities.
Time to make the change by getting involved in local government policy, local government policy feeds federal policy.
Time to make the change by getting involved in homelessness, slavery, and other social issues.
Time to make the change by taking care of mental as well as physical health concerns.
Time to make the change by collaborating, and partnering.
Time to make the change by a slight shift in priorities.
Time to make the change by saying ENOUGH is ENOUGH.

Make the change.

Make the sacrifice.

Black Emergency Managers Association 
1231  Good Hope Road  S.E.
Washington, D.C.  20020
Office:   202-618-9097 
bEMA International 

Change without Sacrifice is an Illusion.  Lisa Ellis

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Price Tag on Disasters. June 2018

Here's How Much Every Major Natural Disaster Cost Americans in 2017

Natural disasters cost Americans $300 billion in 2017. These tragic events were the most expensive.

Search This Blog

ARCHIVE List 2011 - Present