Puerto Rico Gov. Seeks Immediate Cancellation Of Whitefish Energy Contract

Puerto Rico's Frantic Search for Someone to Turn on the Lights

Puerto Rico's government power company said on Sunday it will cancel a $300 million contract with a tiny Montana company to restore power to the storm-hit USA territory after an uproar over the deal.

The Trump administration said Friday it had no involvement in the decision to award Whitefish the contract to help restore Puerto Rico's power grid.

"There can be no distraction that alters the commitment to lift the electrical system as quickly as possible", Rossello said. Ramos said that given the utility is already bankrupt and under court supervision, it is the "most regulated company in the world".

Governor Ricardo Rossello said the board of the island's power company should rescind the $300 million pact with Whitefish Energy Holdings, an upstart fix company in Montana, a western USA state, even though just days ago he defended the contract. Zinke has said he had nothing to do with the contract.

Ramos said he had not talked with Whitefish executives about his announcement. It has been working under contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

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.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that Whitefish, which received the largest contract yet awarded in the troubled relief effort, had only two full-time employees on the day Maria hit the island. Federal regulators say they have picked one of their own to do the job.

"The federal government as I said has nothing to do with this contract or the process", said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Whitefish and PREPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority's (PREPA) Director Ricardo Ramos said that he had to consider the "delay risk" of agreeing to cancel the contract.

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.

"We can't be responsible for what the others might do", the spokesperson said when asked about the line in the contract that said government agencies may not audit or review cost and profit elements.

Congressional Democrats are calling for an investigation into how Whitefish got the contract.

The White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) distanced themselves from the deal last week. Almost six weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, only about a quarter of homes and businesses have power, and the utility has set a goal of having 95 percent of power back by the middle of December.

On Thursday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce requested documents related to the contract from Whitefish.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello has also asked the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general to look into the deal.



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