Energy Secretary Granholm Takes Fifth Trip to Puerto Rico After Republicans Question Travel Spending

Granholm wants to modernize Puerto Rico's power grid. Energy experts question why she needs to be there in person.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm / Getty Images
August 2, 2023

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm traveled to Puerto Rico this week for the fifth time in nine months, following concerns from Republican lawmakers about how she is prioritizing her taxpayer-funded travel.

Granholm said she was "Glad to be back in Puerto Rico this week w/ a series of announcements on energy resilience," according to a Monday Twitter post.

This is Grahnolm’s fifth official trip to Puerto Rico since last October, including one week-long visit in February and one week-long trip during spring break in March.

The trip comes a few months after House Republicans questioned Granholm’s extensive taxpayer-funded travel to the U.S. territory, as well as her frequent international travel. They asked her to turn over her itineraries and list of expenses for the junkets.

On Monday, Granholm announced $453 million in federal funding to increase "residential rooftop solar PV and battery storage installations" in Puerto Rico, and another $7 million in grants for the Puerto Rican government to "help disadvantaged communities to determine their energy needs."

Granholm has said she is working to help Puerto Rico modernize its struggling power grid. But energy experts have questioned why she needs to be on the ground so frequently during a global energy crisis.

"We are in the middle of a domestic and global energy crisis, and under her watch the American people are paying the price for this administration's failed energy policies," a former Department of Energy official told the Washington Free Beacon in March. "Unless Granholm is there installing the solar panels herself, there is no reason for her to be on the ground for that long."

The Department of Energy did not respond to a request for comment, but referred the Free Beacon to press releases about the trip.

Republican lawmakers grilled Granholm in April over the "frequency and duration of these trips … particularly in light of climbing energy costs and intensifying threats to the United States’ energy independence."

"We understand the importance of stabilizing and modernizing Puerto Rico’s electric grid but question whether your frequent and extended presence is critical to these activities," wrote House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations chair Morgan Griffith (R., Va.) in an April 25 letter to Granholm.

The congresswomen asked Granholm for an "itemized list of expenses incurred during the duration of the secretary’s travels for herself and all accompanying staff" and a "list of official activities and meetings undertaken during the secretary’s travels and all accompanying meeting minutes."

The Biden administration allocated $1 billion earlier this year to shore up Puerto Rico’s electricity grid, which was severely damaged by hurricanes in 2017. Attempts to repair the grid over the years have been hampered by corruption and mismanagement.

Granholm’s trip comes days after she returned from a week-long visit to India where she attended multiple international forums.