Puerto Rico Governor calls for cancellation of Whitefish Energy power restoration deal

30 October, 2017, 01:51 | Author: Darrell Lopez
  • Puerto Rico's Frantic Search for Someone to Turn on the Lights

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló called for an immediate cancellation of a tiny Montana firm's $300 million contract to restore power to the storm-hit USA territory, his office confirmed Sunday.

Ricardo Ramos - executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA - announced the decision to journalists just hours after the USA territory's governor urged the cancellation of the deal with the Montana-based Whitefish Energy Holdings, as controversy mounted over how it was struck.

Since graduating in Utica, Techmanski's profile lists many leadership positions at companies in Denver, Canada, the United Kingdom and San Diego. "Any attempts by the dishonest media or political operatives to tie me to awarding or influencing any contract involving Whitefish are completely baseless".

The inspector general plans to look into whether the appropriate process was followed by state-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, when it awarded the contract. The island awarded the contract without a normal public bidding process that would have allowed other companies to compete for the work. The government already paid Whitefish $8 million and does not expect the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse that sum, the sources said.

Ramos said cancellation of the contract will not lead to a penalty, but it's likely the government will pay at least $11 million for the company to go home early, including all costs incurred in the month after the cancellation. 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. The 2-year-old company had just two full-time employees when the storm hit, but it has since hired more than 300 workers.

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.

The company did not immediately return BBC News' request for comment on the governor's statement. Rosselló added that the contract "appeared to comply 100% with FEMA regulations".

A Whitefish contract obtained by The Associated Press found that the deal included $20,277 an hour for a heavy lift Chinook helicopter, $650 an hour for a large crane truck, $322 an hour for a foreman of a power line crew, $319 an hour for a journeyman lineman and $286 an hour for a mechanic.




Though Zinke and Techmanski acknowledge knowing one another, the Interior Department and Techmanski both told the Washington Post the secretary played no role in Whitefish securing the contract.

Democrats also have questioned the role of HBC Investments, a key financial backer of Whitefish.

The White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) distanced themselves from the deal last week.

The US House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Caribbean island, is also scrutinising the contract.

"Transparent accountability at (the power company) is necessary for an effective and sustained recovery in Puerto Rico", his office said in a statement.

More than a month after Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean, over 70 percent of the US island territory still has no electricity.

But the industry plan may conflict with the goals of the federal control board that oversees Puerto Rico's troubled finances.

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