Local USVI News

Confusion: Sen. Carla Joseph Agrees to Defer WAPA Hearing to Oct. or Nov., Then Subpoena’s Authority For Not Showing Up in September

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Senator Carla Joseph and other senators who make up the Committee on Government Operations and Consumer Affairs on Wednesday subpoenaed officials of the V.I. Water and Power Authority after the authority, according to Ms. Joseph, failed to appear before the committee for a scheduled Sept. 14 hearing.

“I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and I tried to work with WAPA in setting dates that would be amendable for them to come forward,” Ms. Joseph said during the Tuesday hearing. She then moved that WAPA be subpoenaed to appear before the Legislature.

But WAPA issued a release Wednesday following the subpoena stating that it has been in active communication with Ms. Joseph’s office and had clearly communicated that Sept. 14 would not be possible, and WAPA requested a date in October or early November.

“In a letter to Senator Joseph on September 6th, Water and Power Authority CEO and Executive Director Andrew Smith requested the hearing be briefly deferred to October or early November as Authority officials are still in the process of gathering indications of interest and performing the necessary evaluation of the various proposals from a number of solar developers, a process that will likely continue into early October,” WAPA said in its release. “As such, the deferment request was to ensure the Authority can present a comprehensive and accurate picture to Committee members and fully answer Committee member’s questions.”

The release further states that Ms. Joseph’s responded to the authority and asked WAPA to suggest favorable dates in October or November to hold the hearing. “The response received on September 7, 2022 from administrative staff on behalf of Senator Joseph acknowledged the Authority’s request for deferment and asked that the Authority send over specific dates in October or November where testimony would be possible. The active and ongoing dialogue between Senator Joseph’s office and the Authority provided the understanding that a new date was acceptable and being coordinated,” WAPA said.

The utility said it provided the following explanation to Ms. Joseph’s office as reason for the requested deferral: “The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (the “Authority”) thanks you for the invitation to testify before the Committee on Government Operations and Consumer Protection (the “Committee”), concerning, among other things, the status of the Authority’s alternative energy source initiatives. However, the Authority is currently in the process of receiving indications of interest from a number of both global and local renewables developers. While some developers are still finalizing their scope of interest, others were invited to clarify key points in their submitted materials. Once complete, the Authority will then develop an apples-to-apples comparison of the competing proposals.” 

WAPA said it remains committed to transparency “and is in no way declining to appear before the committee.”

“Instead, the Authority is proactively seeking to provide the most complete information, instead of being in a position where its only answer to questions is ‘The Authority is unable to answer the question until all details are known and analysis is complete,'” WAPA said.

The authority said it welcomes the opportunity to provide an update to the community in the very near future.

WAPA said it has been vocal in highlighting that all proposals received from solar developers are not contracts, and it is not looking to execute any contracts at this stage. “Transparency is paramount and all indications of interest will be discussed publicly with the PSC and the Governing Board,” the utility said.

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