gpolit.com
gpolit.com November 21, 2017


Puerto Rico governor: Scrap Whitefish energy grid deal

30 October 2017, 01:50 | Darrell Baldwin

Here are the craziest terms of the $300 million government contract given to a tiny electrical firm in a Trump cabinet secretary's hometown

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

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.

Whitefish Energy Holdings workers stand on towers to restore lines damaged by Hurricane Maria in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico on October 15.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello on Sunday said questions raised around the contract are "interfering with everything" and the distractions are not helping Puerto Rico rebuild.

"Following the information that has emerged, and with the goal of protecting public interest, as governor I am asking government and energy authorities to immediately activate the clause to cancel the contract to Whitefish Energy", Rossello said in a statement.

Zinke says that neither he nor anyone in his office has advocated for the company. 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. That person would coordinate the federal government, PREPA and contractors - and perhaps get all the relevant entities rowing in the same direction and at the same speed. A month after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, 75 percent of the island is still without power. When it was hired, 2-year-old Whitefish had just two workers.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) has denied claims by The Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (Prepa), the U.S. territory's main utility, that it reviewed the deal.

Separately, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said they would travel to the island on Saturday to observe recovery efforts.

During a news conference Thursday, Rosselló said he was expecting an audit into Whitefish's $300 million contract.

The Associated Press obtained Whitefish's contract, which called for payments of $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.

Earlier in the week, the department also released a statement denying Zinke played a role and saying he only knows Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanskis "because they both live in a small town where everyone knows everyone". Chiames, the Whitefish spokesman, has said that Colonnetta's political donations were "irrelevant" and that the company would co-operate with any federal authorities.

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". There will be a separate audit by the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General's Office.



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