Update, 4:30 p.m.: Several news sources are reporting that Puerto Rico’s power authority will move to cancel its $300 million contract with Whitefish Energy following several damaging news reports and a call Sunday by the governor to revoke the deal.
PREPA head Ricardo Ramos made the announcement on Sunday, after Gov. Rosselló’s comments earlier in the day, Time reported.
Rosselló reportedly has asked for help from utility crews from New York and Florida.
The company has been paid about $8 million for the project so far.
Original post continues here:
Faced with many unanswered questions about how an obscure Montana company could win a $300 million deal to restore power to the hurricane–devastated island, Puerto Rico’s governor has called for a dubious contract with Whitefish Energy to be canceled.
During a news conference on Sunday, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said, “In light of the information that has come about with regards to the contracting of Whitefish Energy and in the interests of protecting our public interests I have asked the board of the power authority to invoke the cancellation clause in the contract immediately,” NBC News reported.
In a post on Twitter, he added, “There can be no distraction that interferes with the commitment to restore the power grid as quickly as possible.”
Several investigations likely will soon get underway, both in Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland, as to how exactly a company that previously had only two employees could secure such a large contract to rebuild the island’s energy infrastructure after it was destroyed by Hurricane Maria over a month ago.
Nearly 40 days after Maria made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in late September, 70% of the island remains without power.
Whitefish Energy CEO Andy Techmanski told NBC that his company, which is based in U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown, first made contact with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) via LinkedIn after Hurricane Irma in September.
According to the Associated Press, the contract Whitefish secured with PREPA following Hurricane Maria includes:
*$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.
Workers also receive a daily allowance of “$80 for food, $332 for a hotel room and $1,000 for each flight to or from the mainland.”
Equally stunning, the contract states that the government of Puerto Rico is blocked from auditing or reviewing “the cost and profit elements of the labor rights specified herein.” The government also waives any claims made against Whitefish Energy for work delays.
Speaking on MSNBC’s AM Joy on Sunday morning, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who was threatened by Whitefish on Twitter earlier this week, called for the head of PREPA, Ricardo Ramos, to be fired:
There were too many questions. It was evident that this company did not have everything that was required to complete the mission that it has to do in Puerto Rico, which is bringing power back to Puerto Rico so that hospitals can function properly, so that businesses don’t have to continue closing, so that our economic development can get back on track, or just speed it up…
There are very many inconsistencies in that contract. It appears that the governor now thinks, based on what we just heard, that there is something that is not done appropriately. So, he has called for the cancellation. He must now fire the person that signed the contract, because if he thinks and he has so many concerns about the contract being signed that he orders the cancellation, the person responsible for signing the contract must be fired immediately. And of course, that is the head of PREPA, Ricardo Ramos.
As Splinter previously reported, Whitefish Energy’s investors include major donors to the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The company is only two years old, it had only two full–time employees a month ago, and Zinke’s son reportedly worked there over the summer.
The interior secretary says he had nothing to do with the deal, despite Techmanski telling NBC he has been communicating with Zinke regarding resources. The northwestern Montana town of Whitefish, Zinke’s hometown, has a population of just over 7,000 people.
Techmanski called the mounting scrutiny of Whitefish Energy and its dodgy contract a “witch hunt.”