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Puerto Rico Governor Will Skip Hearing After Twitter Feud

No-show comes after Ricardo Rosselló demanded an ‘explicit, public apology’ for a tweet he found ‘shameful’

Rep. Rob Bishop called a Natural Resources Committee hearing to scrutinize the crisis at Puerto Rico’s “atypical” electric power company. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Rob Bishop called a Natural Resources Committee hearing to scrutinize the crisis at Puerto Rico’s “atypical” electric power company. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated July 25, 11:45 a.m. | After a Twitter feud that further soured relations between the governor of Puerto Rico and the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, one seat will be empty Wednesday.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló will skip an oversight hearing on “mismanagement and disarray” at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the island’s sole energy provider.

The governor announced his decision at a Tuesday night press conference. And Chairman Rob Bishop fanned the flames hours before the Wednesday hearing, chiding Rosselló for not immediately sending testimony if he wouldn’t come himself. 

The no-show comes after the governor demanded  an “explicit, public apology” for a tweet he found “shameful” and “condescending.”

The tweet, now deleted, was posted on July 19 by the Natural Resources Committee’s account and said “Call your office, @RicardoRossello,” with the committee’s invitation for testimony attached.

When a CBS reporter asked why the tweet had been deleted, the panel responded that the governor had requested it be removed. 

Rosselló, however, told El Nuevo Dia that the director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration asked for the tweet to be removed. Calling for an apology last week, the governor said he would not work with the House panel if they were “going to joke around without seriousness.”

At Tuesday night’s press conference, the governor stood his ground about the apology. “For me, the way that they can demonstrate that it is a serious discussion and not a lie or a charade is by recognizing that what they did the other day was disrespectful and in bad taste,” he said in Spanish.

And Bishop, in turn, dug in before the hearing, saying he won’t apologize. 

The governor, who is part of the pro-statehood party in Puerto Rico, said it was telling that the hearing fell on July 25, the date that Puerto Rico was established as a commonwealth. The Natural Resources hearing points “to the power and weakness” of the commonwealth status, he added. 

He also punctured speculation that the new executive director of the power authority would attend in his place. But on Wednesday, hours before the hearing, Rosselló submitted written testimony, along with a letter to Bishop calling the hearing a “political exercise.”

One notable political figure from the island is slated to make the trip: the minority leader of Puerto Rico’s Senate, Eduardo Bhatia, who has criticized the governor for a lack of transparency. 

Apart from Bruce Walker, an assistant secretary at the federal Department of Energy, the other three invited witnesses work in private consulting businesses — Pegasus Capital Advisors, Svanda Consulting and Chapman Strategic Advisors.

Bishop said he hopes that the hearing will bring “common sense solutions” to the problem of “politicization” as PREPA heads toward privatization.

“What takes place in Puerto Rico with utilities, with power is really atypical of anything else we have in any other state,” the Utah Republican said.

Puerto Rico’s already ailing energy provider took a hit in Hurricane Maria last year, and a push to federalize an overhaul of the energy grid has divided the island.

Jael Holzman contributed to this report.