Puerto Rico Cancels Whitefish Energy Contract To Rebuild Electrical Grid

Tuesday, 31 Oct, 2017

"As a result of the information that has been revealed and the need to protect the public interest, as governor, I am asking the power authority to cancel the Whitefish contract immediately", Rosselló said according to The Washington Post.

Puerto Rico had the opportunity to opt for mutual aid arrangements but instead opted to outsource the small private company.

Whitefish's contract was canceled Sunday amid increasing scrutiny of the contract's extremely generous terms, its restriction against government auditing of its "cost and profit elements" and the lack of approval by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, despite the contract stating that FEMA needed to sign off on the deal.

"There can not be any kind of distraction that alters the commitment to restore electrical power as soon as possible in Puerto Rico", Rossello said, adding that almost $8 million has been paid to Whitefish so far.

"This was something exclusively determined by the Puerto Rican government", she said Friday.

Whitefish Energy said it had brought in 350 workers, 400 trucks, cranes and elevators and five helicopters to begin work to fix the electrical grid.

Some stores, restaurants, medical centres, and a few private residences are running on generators but most of the island - 70 percent, are still without electrical power, more than a month after Hurricane Maria struck.

Roughly 70 percent of the US territory remains without power more than a month after Maria struck on September 20 as a Category 4 storm with winds of up to 154 miles per hour (245 kph).

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FEMA said it has not approved any reimbursement requests from the power company for money to cover repairs to the island's electrical system.

The FBI is investigating the $300 million contract awarded by Puerto Rico's government power company to Montana-based Whitefish, a company with just two full-time employees, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Whitefish responded by tweeting a threat to Cruz to pull their workers out of her city.

"We will certainly finish any work that (the power company) wants us to complete and stand by our commitments", he said.

Thirty-nine days after Hurricane Maria hit the territory - and only two days before a hearing of the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee - Rosselló said that he would request assistance from Florida and NY under mutual aid arrangements that utilities traditionally activate to help other states during an emergency.

The governor's office said it welcomed an inquiry.

Whitefish spokesman Chris Chiames told The Associated Press that the company was "very disappointed" in the governor's decision, and said it would only delay efforts to restore power.

"While Whitefish is not aware of any such investigation, Whitefish is committed to full cooperation with any inquiry or investigation", the company said in a statement.