The lack of a competitive bidding process and the fact that Whitefish Energy is located in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Montana hometown gave rise to the theory that the Whitefish contract stank. This morning Gov. Ricardo Rossello pulled the plug. Bloomberg:
San Juan, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s governor on Sunday demanded that the board of the island’s power company cancel the $300M contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings amid increased scrutiny of the Montana company’s role in Hurricane Maria recovery efforts.
The announcement by Gov. Ricardo Rossello comes as federal legislators seek to investigate the contract awarded to the small company from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown.
“There cannot be any kind of distraction that alters the commitment to restore electrical power as soon as possible in Puerto Rico,” Rossello said, adding that at least $8 million has been paid to Whitefish so far.
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. Each worker also gets a daily allowance of $80 for food, $332 for a hotel room and $1,000 for each flight to or from the mainland.
PREPA also bypassed the usual mechanism involving the larger, more experienced American Public Power Association, which brought in workers from public utility companies across the U.S. after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma this year. Buzzfeed:
“It’s interfering with everything and it doesn’t go towards the best interests of the people of Puerto Rico,” Rosselló said of the contract on Sunday.
The governor said he is asking PREPA to put in place a trustee in charge of overseeing contract procurements, and that Puerto Rico’s Comptroller will investigate the procurement of contracts under emergency conditions, which fast-track the process.
He said the Puerto Rican government will seek mutual aid from New York and Florida energy authorities to help repair the island’s power grid.
Seventy percent of the island is still without power. Approximately $8Million will be paid to Whitefish.