Puerto Rico Governor Calls for Cancellation of Whitefish Contract

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

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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.

Rossello retweeted statements asking the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA, or AEE: Autoridad de Energia Electrica de Puerto Rico) to cancel its contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings.

"We need answers from Whitefish, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and the federal government - and we need them soon", McCaskill said. He went on to become CEO of Whitefish two years ago.

Rosselló asked the governing board of the island's power authority to revoke the contract Sunday, amid ongoing local and federal audits.

Whitefish, which had just two employees when it won the contract, but since hired more than 300, had started work on restoring electrical power to the island, where only about 30 percent of the island's 3.7 million residents have had power since Hurricane Maria ravaged the territory and decimated its electrical grid system.

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Some 75% of Puerto Ricans have no power five weeks after Hurricane Maria.

The specific terms of the contract also raised eyebrows, from the exorbitant hourly rates charged by Whitefish to its barring of a government audit.

The controversy over the no-bid contract previously set off a Twitter feud between the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, and the company, which is based in Whitefish, Montana, the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Critics have queried why Puerto Rican authorities did not seek aid from other public utility companies - as is customary during disasters.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello held a press conference asking Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to cancel its deal with Whitefish Energy Holdings and coordinate with utility companies in Florida and NY. Zinke met with President Donald Trump on Friday morning, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump did ask Zinke about the contract, to which Zinke denied involvement.

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FEMA says its initial review raises significant concerns about how Whitefish got the deal and whether the contracted prices are reasonable.

The contract states that "Prepa hereby represents and warrants that Fema has reviewed and approved of this Contract". "This was something exclusively determined by the Puerto Rican government". She said she also wants the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, which includes FEMA, to investigate, adding to the list of possible investigations.

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

"The governor also did not say how the utility would disentangle itself from the contract with Whitefish Energy".

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