Puerto Rico's governor: Cancel Whitefish contract

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 US territory, his office confirmed Sunday.

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.

The Puerto Rican power company's, Ricardo Ramos, has said that Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority reached a deal with Whitefish just days before the hurricane struck, saying that he spoke with at least five other companies that demanded similar rates, in addition to a down payment the agency did not have.

When Maria slammed Puerto Rico on September 20 as a Category 4 storm, it leveled an already-fragile infrastructure, essentially wiping out power to the entire island.

"This is a contract that was determined by local authorities", she said, asserting that the federal government "has nothing to do" with the contract.

Whitefish Energy Holdings is based in Whitefish, Montana.

The Puerto Rican power authority's decision to forego "mutual aid" agreements with utilities from other areas - as is traditional after large-scale disasters - and assign the job to a for-profit company instead baffled many experts.

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The CEO of a company that received a highly scrutinized contract to restore power to Puerto Rico was born and raised in Baldwinsville.

Prepa and the Puerto Rican government are saddled with massive debts.

The Trump administration denied Friday (Oct. 27) that political connections had anything to do with restoring electrical connections in Puerto Rico, and Zinke said Friday he had nothing to do with the contract.

The contract states that "Prepa hereby represents and warrants that Fema has reviewed and approved of this Contract".

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., chair of the subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, wrote a letter directing the head of Puerto Rico's public utility system to retain all records surrounding the hiring of Whitefish Energy and to turn documents over to Congress.

"Based on initial review and information from PREPA, FEMA has significant concerns with how PREPA procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable", FEMA said in the statement.

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

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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