Puerto Rico Governor Calls for Cancellation of Power Grid Repair Contract
01:37, Oct 30, 2017
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Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló demanded the cancellation of a highly disputed $300 million contract awarded to Whitefish Energy, a tiny American company tasked with restoring power to the still storm-ravaged island. It is located in the same small Montana town that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is from, leading to some questioning if he had any involvement.
Rossello also said he has asked the Office of the Comptroller for a detailed and thorough investigation about the contracting process that the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority used to select Whitefish. Despite the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico's capital city San Juan still has much to offer visitors. Right now, a tangle of federal agencies, private contractors and island authorities are struggling to work together to get the power working. Whitefish had just two employees when Maria struck the island.
Whitefish Energy Holdings is based in Whitefish, Montana.
"Usually after huge power outages, electric companies arrange mutual aid agreements with utilities elsewhere to bring in workers to help restore power".
Under the contract, Whitefish is charging $330 an hour for a site supervisor and $227.88 an hour for a "journeyman lineman". "This was something exclusively determined by the Puerto Rican government".
Two days later, FEMA was also distancing itself from Whitefish saying, it "has significant concerns with how PREPA procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable". The ranking Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and Finance committees on Wednesday asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the contract.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a New York Democrat born on the island, who has been active in pushing for resources for Puerto Rico's recovery, said Zamot's appointment is "completely appropriate" because PREPA made a decision to forgo mutual aid agreements with other power authorities - a type of voluntary partnership that allows for companies to easily share resources to get power up and running as quickly as possible after a disaster - and hire Whitefish.
"The first I heard of the Whitefish Energy contract was through the news", he said.
The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general has launched a review of the deal.
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