Sen. Murkowski Leads CODEL to Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands

Delegation Gets Firsthand Look at Hurricane Damage and Recovery Efforts, Discusses How to Rebuild Sustainable, Resilient Electric Grid

November 7, 2017

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, this past weekend led a congressional delegation to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to assess damages in the hurricane ravaged islands and ongoing recovery efforts. The delegation also held discussions with local leaders on how to restore power expeditiously and rebuild a stronger, more sustainable electric grid. Joining Murkowski on the CODEL were Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Al Franken, D-Minn., Tom Carper, D-Del., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Reps. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., Garrett Graves, R-La., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.

The delegation met with staff at San Juan Children’s Hospital (top to bottom, l to r): Franken, Shuster, Graves, Carper, Murkowski, DeFazio, Cassidy, Gov. Rosselló, Harris, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón, and staff of the hospital.

“I’ve seen my share of disasters, but the reality on the ground is extraordinary. Everywhere we went, we saw devastation. The families we met have touched each and every one of us, and we will stand strong with them throughout their recovery,” Murkowski said. “As members of Congress, we have a big responsibility to our fellow Americans who call Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands home. We must work together to not only restore power in the short term, but also find a workable, long-term solution to help the islands move forward with a more resilient and reliable energy grid that can withstand severe hurricanes.

“I thank FEMA, the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Homeland Security, and so many of the National Guard units who are on the ground assisting with the recovery and rebuilding of these communities every day. I also thank the members who joined me on this trip. My goal is to ensure that Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have the resources they need to make a full recovery, and my next step is to hold an oversight hearing next week before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.”

Damage of St. Thomas solar field 11 05 17

Photo above shows the damage to a solar field in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Damaged roadway in Puerto Rico 11 06 17

Photo above shows a roadway wiped out by flooding during Hurricane Maria in Barranquitas, a mountain municipality in the central region of Puerto Rico that was heavily damaged. 

On Sunday, the delegation visited impacted neighborhoods and the Schneider Medical Center in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The group also visited San Juan Children’s Hospital in Puerto Rico, where Tesla restored electricity using solar and battery power. On Monday, they visited the Palo Seco power plant outside of San Juan, toured the Joint Field Office in San Juan, and visited Barranquitas in the mountain region of Puerto Rico, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Maria. Finally, the delegation took an aerial overflight of power plants in the southern part of Puerto Rico, as well as solar and wind farms that sustained damage.

The delegation also participated in a press conference on Monday afternoon with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón. Click here to view Murkowski’s remarks.

Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Cassidy and Franken are also members of the committee, which will hold a hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 14 to evaluate short-term, mid-term, and long-term efforts to rebuild stronger, more resilient, and more reliable energy systems in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands going forward.