Chair Grijalva, Members of Congress Send Letters Requesting Critical Resources for Disaster Recovery and Resilience in Puerto Rico and Florida Following Hurricanes Fiona and Ian

Washington, D.C. - Over the past week, House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) led two letters requesting critical resources to assist recovery and resiliency efforts in Puerto Rico and Florida after Hurricanes Fiona and Ian. The first letter, sent yesterday and cosigned by 37 other members of Congress, urges Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) to provide $5 billion to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for rooftop solar and storage solutions for low-income households and households with people with disabilities in Puerto Rico in an emergency supplemental appropriations bill.

The second letter, sent Oct. 7 to U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland, requests that DOI, in its role as the Coordinating Agency of the Natural and Cultural Resources Recovery Support Function (NCR RSF), assist with disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico and Florida to ensure appropriate preservation and rehabilitation of natural, cultural, and historic resources.

See the full letter to Speaker Pelosi and Chair DeLauro here.

See the full letter to DOI Secretary Haaland here.

The 38-member letter to Speaker Pelosi and Chair DeLauro emphasizes that the people of Puerto Rico have long been deprived of reliable and resilient energy on the island. The lawmakers note that the need for immediate solutions to the territory’s fragile electrical system has been made especially clear after recent natural disasters—Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, multiple earthquakes in 2020, and Hurricane Fiona in September—caused total failures of the island’s centralized grid.

The lawmakers write, “Each time there is such a mass grid collapse, Puerto Rico’s more than three million residents are left wondering how long it will last, and communities in the past have remained in the dark for several weeks or, in some cases after Hurricane Maria, months.”

Efforts to modernize Puerto Rico's power grid and make it resilient to natural disasters have largely failed. In the meantime, the record of reliability for solar power and batteries in Puerto Rico, especially during a crisis, is promising. During the island-wide blackout caused by Hurricane Fiona, for example, households and businesses equipped with solar-powered generation and storage were able to restore power before those relying on the grid for energy.

However, the letter cautions that many households do not have the means to buy or finance rooftop solar and battery storage systems and are being left behind: “For many people in Puerto Rico, energy independence is a survival strategy, and it’s out of reach for those that need it most.”

Chair Grijalva’s letter to Secretary Haaland highlights DOI’s role as the NCR RSF throughout ongoing disaster relief efforts and points to the importance of preserving important public resources like national historic sites and national wildlife refuges recently impacted in Puerto Rico.

“I ask that the Department of the Interior…provide leadership, coordination, and oversight to ensure appropriate response and recovery actions to preserve, conserve, rehabilitate, and restore natural, cultural, and historic resources,” writes Chair Grijalva.

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