Puerto Rico Gov. Seeks Immediate Cancellation Of Whitefish Energy Contract


Puerto Rico's governor on Sunday demanded that the board of the island's power company cancel the $300M contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings amid increased scrutiny of the Montana company's role in Hurricane Maria recovery efforts. And the firm is based in Whitefish, Montana, the hometown of President Trump's Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

"There can not be any distraction that alters the commitment of raising the electric system as quickly as possible", Rossello said. 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. Right now, a tangle of federal agencies, private contractors and island authorities are struggling to work together to get the power working.

The move came as the Congress has already been asking questions about the deal - more than interested by the fact that Whitefish Energy had only two full-time employees at the time that Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico in September.

The specific terms of the contract also raised eyebrows, from the exorbitant hourly rates charged by Whitefish to its barring of a government audit.

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.

"Usually after huge power outages, electric companies arrange mutual aid agreements with utilities elsewhere to bring in workers to help restore power".

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The Trump administration denied Friday (Oct. 27) that political connections had anything to do with restoring electrical connections in Puerto Rico, and Zinke said Friday he had nothing to do with the contract.

Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona said, "Congress needs to understand why the Whitefish contract was awarded and whether other, more cost-effective options were available".

FEMA has denied approving the contract.

The Department of Homeland Security says its has started an investigation of the awarding of the contract and will look for any "inappropriate relationships". The ranking Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and Finance committees on Wednesday asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the contract.

During a news conference Thursday, Rosselló said he was expecting an audit into Whitefish's $300 million contract.