Puerto Rico governor wants Whitefish contract cancelled 'immediately'

by Garry Watts October 30, 2017, 1:38
Puerto Rico governor wants Whitefish contract cancelled 'immediately'

Governor Ricardo Rossello said the board of the island's power company should rescind the $300 million pact with Whitefish Energy Holdings, an upstart fix company in Montana, a western US state, even though just days ago he defended the contract.

The company has only two full-time employees, and many were surprised when it received the big contract to help rebuild Puerto Rico's electrical grid in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

If Zamot does get the job, he will have to juggle the intertwined demands of upgrading Puerto Rico's electrical system and restoring power as quickly as possible to parts of the island that are still without it.

Thirty-nine days after Hurricane Maria hit the territory, Rossello said that he would request assistance from Florida and NY under mutual aid arrangements that utilities traditionally activate to help other states during an emergency. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, senior Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the Whitefish contract "raises every red flag in the book".

The $300 million contract between Puerto Rico's power utility and the Montana-based energy firm has been criticized in recent days. FEMA says it hasn't approved any reimbursement requests from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority for money to cover the ongoing repairs to the island's power grid following Hurricane Maria.

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Sunday's announcement by Gov. Ricardo Rossello comes as federal legislators are seeking to investigate the contract awarded to the small company from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown.

The specific terms of the contract also raised eyebrows, from the exorbitant hourly rates charged by Whitefish to its barring of a government audit. Zinke met with President Donald Trump on Friday morning, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump did ask Zinke about the contract, to which Zinke denied involvement. He said in a statement Friday, "I had absolutely nothing to do with Whitefish Energy receiving a contract in Puerto Rico".

Prepa and the Puerto Rican government are saddled with massive debts. Rosselló added that the contract "appeared to comply 100% with FEMA regulations".

"Based on initial review and information from PREPA, FEMA has significant concerns with how PREPA procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable", FEMA said in the statement.


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