Puerto Rico Governor Calls for Cancellation of Whitefish Contract

Puerto Rico Governor Calls for Cancellation of Whitefish Contract

Puerto Rico Governor Calls for Cancellation of Whitefish Contract

Puerto Rico's governor called for the island's utility to cancel a $300 million power restoration contract with a small Montana-based company on Sunday.

"There can not be any distraction that alters the commitment of raising electric system as soon as possible", Rossello said of the contract, which came under scrutiny last week. Ramos said that given the utility is already bankrupt and under court supervision, it is the "most regulated company in the world".

FEMA said in a statement Friday that any language in the contract saying the agency approved the deal with Whitefish Energy Holdings is inaccurate. Whitefish has said the company has expertise in mountainous areas, and arrived in Puerto Rico before other companies.

"FEMA is presently engaged with PREPA and its legal counsel to obtain information about the contract and contracting process, including how the contract was procured and how PREPA determined the contract prices were reasonable", it said.

The company has come under additional scrutiny due to its ties to a donor of President Donald Trump and the fact that it is located in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown of Whitefish. When it was hired, 2-year-old Whitefish had just two workers.

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.

"They're doing an excellent job", he said.

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. The agency could not be immediately reached for comment.

Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana told the AP that he did not know Whitefish or its CEO, Andy Techmanski, and said he was surprised it was able to secure the contract.

FEMA has denied approving the contract.

Ramos, in a press conference Sunday, noted that the initial enthusiasm from residents over Whitefish employees coming to the island had shifted in the last several days after media reported the details of the contract.

The latest updates from the Puerto Rican government show that nearly 70 percent of the island remains without power; the storm made landfall on the island on September 20.

Raul Grijalva of Arizona, senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said on Tuesday, "Congress needs to understand why the Whitefish contract was awarded and whether other, more cost-effective options were available".

A federal control board that oversees Puerto Rico's finances announced this week that retired Air Force Col. Noel Zamot will be in charge of power reconstruction efforts. 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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