Gov. Ralph DLG Torres declared in an executive order yesterday a “State of Significant Emergency” in the CNMI after recently accepting the resignation of all gubernatorial appointees of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board.
The order also gives the Office of the Governor the power to continue the planned purchase of a replacement generator, with the Executive Branch leading the project. The Governor’s Office would be releasing the request for proposal.
The replacement generator is for an old engine, alternator No. 8, at CUC’s Power Plant 1 in Lower Base. CUC’s daily operations—providing power generation, water, and wastewater services to the CNMI—could be disrupted due to its inability to purchase a replacement engine.
Torres said the imminent threat could result in losses and damage to life and property, and disruption of CUC’s services to critical infrastructure and key resources in the CNMI.
“These events directly threaten the CNMI in various ways, which include but are not limited to its overall economy, health services, industry (e.g. food, medicine, etc.), public school system, the environment, and the government’s ability to properly protect its citizens,” he added.
CUC is the lone power supplier on the island. It provides electricity to all government agencies, departments, divisions, and institutions as well as to all businesses and homes.
CUC’s lack of ability to maximize its electricity output could endanger life, information, operations, environment, and/or property, Torres said.
“Most CNMI economic activity would be at risk to sustain immediate losses with the potential for long-term adverse economic impact.”
“Much refrigeration and air conditioning would end, and the airports and ports would be forced to rely on emergency generation and limited and expensive oil supply for it,” added Torres.
Health and safety in the CNMI would also be at risk “because traffic signals and street lighting could cease to function. Emergency, fire, police facilities and their communications systems, and the hospital and island clinics would have to rely on limited oil supplies for emergency generation and then cease functioning.”
“And much refrigeration of food and medicines would end, as would air conditioning for the elderly and sick; the public schools and the Northern Marianas College would be at risk to close. Other educational institutions would be at risk to close as their backup oil supplies for emergency generators are exhausted,” said Torres.
He said the CNMI’s water and sewage system would also be affected since CUC is the lone supplier of electricity to operate these systems. “CUC’s water system relies on electricity to maintain the system pressure needed to prevent the backflow of pathogens, to chlorinate, and to pump, store, and distribute water supplies.”
“CUC’s wastewater system requires electricity to collect, pump, process, treat, and discharge sewage. The lack of electricity could result in sewage overflows, contaminating land and water.”
The EO states that CUC would continue to function under executive director Gary Camacho, who would continue to carry out the general operations and management of the agency.
Torres said CUC management has already informed him of the immediate need to buy a replacement engine. Saipan’s reserve capacity is at less than 3 megawatts.
CUC said Saipan’s minimum reserve should be equal to 40 to 50 percent of the peak demand for power. Currently, the island’s power demand is at 41 megawatts.
“If any one of the large units at Power Plant 1 has to be taken out of service for scheduled maintenance or unscheduled repair work, Saipan’s power grid would be deficient in meeting the island’s power demand. This situation is the result of the rapid commercial development and economic growth Saipan has experienced over the last year,” added Torres.
His executive order gives him the power to use all of the government’s available resources in response to the emergency. It also transfers CUC’s direction, personnel or functions to other departments and agencies to perform or facilitate proper response.
The State of Significant Emergency is in effect for 30 days from the date when the EO was released.