Puerto Rico Cancels $300 Million Contract With Tiny Energy Company Hired To Restore Electricity

Puerto Rico has scrapped a $300 million business contract with a tiny energy company amid growing scrutiny over the agreement, just one  week after it was made public. Ricardo Ramos, the head of Puerto Rico Electric Authority announced Sunday (Oct. 29) that the deal with Whitefish Energy Holdings was canceled on the recommendation of Gov. Ricardo Rossello.

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“There can be no distraction that alters the commitment to repair the power grid as quickly as possible,” Rossello said in a statement Sunday. “The decision announced today is intended to reaffirm our commitment to transparency in the contracting process in the government of Puerto Rico and to achieve the highest degree of efficiency possible in the restoration of the power grid of our island, in the shortest amount of time possible.”

Whitefish, a tiny Montana-based energy company raised suspicion immediately after it landed the multi-million dollar contract to aid in Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief efforts. Besides its link to the Trump Administration, Whitefish only has two full-time employees, and came under fire for its expensive labor rates.

After calling for a probe into the Whitefish contract, Rossello, publicly urged PREPA to pull the plug.

FEMA also raised concerns. “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,” the agency said in a statement Friday (Oct. 27).

Last week, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz questioned how the two-year-old company secured such a large contract. In response, Whitefish threatened to pack up and leave.

“We’ve got 44 linemen rebuilding power lines in your city & 40 more men just arrived. Do you want us to send them back or keep working?” the company tweeted and later apologized.

Whitefish is located in the hometown of the Trump Administration Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and is funded by an equity firm owned by a major Trump donor, The Daily Beast reports.

According to the Washington Post, Zinke also knows the company’s CEO Andy Techmanski, which Zinke attributed to being from a small town where “everybody knows everybody.”

Zinke denied any involvement in the business deal. “I had absolutely nothing to do with Whitefish Energy receiving a contract in Puerto Rico,” he tweeted Friday along with a statement blaming the “dishonest media” or “political operatives” for trying to tie him to the company. “I welcome all investigations into the allegations.”

The FBI is reportedly investigating the Whitefish deal. Meanwhile, the contract requires 30-day notice of cancellation, which means Whitefish is likely to continue working until the agreement is officially dissolved.

 

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