Puerto Rico Gov. Seeks Immediate Cancellation Of Whitefish Energy Contract

Puerto Rico Gov. Seeks Immediate Cancellation Of Whitefish Energy Contract

The list of players responsible for getting the lights on is long: The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is responsible for restoring an area after a disaster hits; the Army Corps of Engineers, which does the on-the-ground work of restoring power plants and distribution; Puerto Rico's state and local governments; and PREPA and a handful of private power companies hired by PREPA to do fix work.

A report in The Washington Post, noting that the company is based in Whitefish, Montana, the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, set off a storm of criticism this week and triggered calls for inquiries by Congress. "Any attempts by the dishonest media or political operatives to tie me to awarding or influencing any contract involving Whitefish are completely baseless".

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.

Two days ago, officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency expressed "significant concerns" about how Techmanski's company won the contract and are investigating.

The company's work already under way in Puerto Rico will not be affected, he said, saying the cancellation will not be official until the utility's board approves it, and then it will take effect 30 days later.

Rosselló said he had reached out to Florida Governor Rick Scott and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to seek help in replacing Whitefish and that they were prepared to assist in restoring power.

"We are particularly concerned with the lack of a unified command for electric grid restoration to ensure that resources are properly and quickly utilized, that specific tasks are appropriately prioritized, and that efforts are not duplicative, " the letter read. Whitefish had just two employees when Maria struck the island.

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Whitefish has said that its expertise working in mountainous terrain qualifies it for the job and that its business model calls for rapidly expanding using subcontractors.

"Much of the controversy that has surrounded the contract has focused on the high rates Whitefish is charging for labor".

"For subcontractors, the bulk of Whitefish's workforce, the prices go even higher". "This administration needs to stop dragging its feet, establish coherent command and control. and take the lead when it comes to restoring power".

More than a month after Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean, over 70 percent of the US island territory still has no electricity. About 80 percent of customers still have no electricity. Whitefish has never worked on a project of that size.

"We have 300 workers on the island and continue to make great progress on our assignments", the company said, "but others who will play a role need to get here faster and do more".

Ramos said he is "very comfortable with any investigation" by Congress.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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