Thousands of Puerto Ricans Still in Dark as U.S. Agencies Exit

(Bloomberg) -- Eight months after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico’s power grid, causing the largest blackout in U.S. history, more than 98 percent of the people have their power back.

The remaining two percent may have to wait a while.

Though about 23,000 of the 1.47 million customers remain without power, U.S. officials said Tuesday they plan on winding down their efforts and instead will turn the remainder over to local officials who struggled even pre-storm to provide reliable electricity

The Army Corps of Engineers, one of the federal agencies involved in efforts to restore power to the island, plans to end its mission next week, Charles R. Alexander, a director with the agency, testified Tuesday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Likewise, the Energy Department plans to "wind down support for restoration efforts," Bruce Walker, an assistant secretary for Energy Department’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, said in his written testimony.

As the agencies exit, Walter Higgins, chief executive of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, warned of the continuing challenges ahead.

"There may be some places that are just too hard to get to in any reasonable time," Higgins said.

Senator Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, called the withdrawal unacceptable and questioned if federal officials would pull out of Texas or Florida if more than 20,000 people were without power.

"I think that’s reprehensible," he said.

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