Murkowski Committed to Long-term Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today spoke on the Senate floor about the devastating impact that Hurricanes Irma and Maria have had on the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the current relief efforts underway on those islands, and how we might help in their long-term rebuild, particularly as it relates to their electric grid and power sector.

Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction for our U.S. territories. She opened her remarks by sharing the committee’s commitment to upholding our responsibilities to the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands following these natural disasters:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all who were impacted by these incredibly powerful storms as they dig out, rebuild, and restart their lives.  Just as we will take care of the people of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, I want to make sure that the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands know that we stand united with them during these exceptionally difficult times, and that we will work with them, as partners, to make their islands stronger, more resilient, and better prepared for whatever the future may bring.”

Puerto Rico and USVI floor speech

Click image to view Murkowski’s floor speech 

Murkowski explained that despite the devastation and considerable hurdles, progress is being made:

“For electricity, as of October 1, five percent of customers in Puerto Rico have had their power restored. Assessments show significant damage to transmission and distribution systems. In the Virgin Islands, 15 percent of customers in St. Thomas and 10 percent of customers in St. Croix have had their power restored, including the airports and hospitals. 

“We know that in the immediate term, the primary relief that Congress can provide is through the appropriations process. We will soon be considering another tranche of disaster relief funds so that those impacted by these hurricanes have the food, water, and medicine they need as recovery efforts continue.”

Murkowski announced her intent to hold an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on both the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in the coming weeks. She also intends to visit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with other members once the situation has stabilized there. And Murkowski will be meeting with officials from the Army Corps of Engineers – tasked by FEMA with rebuilding Puerto Rico’s electric grid –and the Department of Energy to explore solutions to modernize Puerto Rico’s grid during its rebuild:

“We want to look at not only the damage caused, where recovery efforts stand, but also lessons learned, as well as opportunities moving forward as to how we can rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric grid to be better than it was before so it does have a resiliency and does have a sustainability that I think is imperative moving forward.”

Click here to view her floor speech.