Puerto Rico Gov. Seeks Immediate Cancellation Of Whitefish Energy Contract

Puerto Rico Gov. Seeks Immediate Cancellation Of Whitefish Energy Contract

Puerto Rico Gov. Seeks Immediate Cancellation Of Whitefish Energy Contract

The governor of Puerto Rico called for the cancellation of a controversial $300 million contract the island's utility signed with a small Montana-based company tasked with a central role in repairing the territory's hurricane-ravaged electric power grid.

Whitefish Energy, a two-year-old energy company from Zinke's hometown, had just two employees prior to being awarded the contract last month by Puerto Rico's quasi-public utility, PREPA, to fix part of the island's power grid that was destroyed by Hurricane Maria.

"There can not be any distraction that alters the commitment of raising the electric system as quickly as possible", Rossello said.

Whitefish and the island's public utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, struck an agreement on September 26, six days after Maria swept through, without a formal bidding process.

"This is a contract that was determined by the local authorities in Puerto Rico", Sanders said, noting that the administration is awaiting the results of an ongoing audit surrounding the decision.

The governor also did not say how the utility would disentangle itself from the contract with Whitefish Energy.

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Under the contract, Whitefish is charging $330 an hour for a site supervisor and $227.88 an hour for a "journeyman lineman". It is located in the same small Montana town that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is from, leading to some questioning if he had any involvement.

Some 75% of Puerto Ricans have no power five weeks after Hurricane Maria.

Critics have queried why Puerto Rican authorities did not seek aid from other public utility companies - as is customary during disasters. The Puerto Rican government admitted that 911 people had died of "natural causes" after the storm.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello held a press conference asking Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to cancel its deal with Whitefish Energy Holdings and coordinate with utility companies in Florida and NY.

News reports have revealed that Zinke's son worked a summer construction job for Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski. Zinke has said he had nothing to do with the contract. FEMA on Friday said that it had not approved the Whitefish Energy agreement.

"The first I heard of the Whitefish Energy contract was through the news", he said. The internal watchdog at the Department of Homeland Security said it is investigating the contract and will look for any "inappropriate relationships" associated with it.

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