Puerto Rico backed out of a controversial $300 million deal with a small Montana firm, Whitefish Energy, to fix their hurricane-ravaged power grid.
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló canceled the contract after the Federal Emergency Management Agency cited “significant concerns” with the firm's contract.
San Juan's mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz questioned the transparency behind the deal when Whitefish Energy initially asked if Puerto Rico wanted them to send the workers back or keep working. Whitefish later issued a statement apologizing to the mayor and residents of Puerto Rico's residents for the former comments.
@ABCPolitics learn from this getting paid a lot and being impolite to your client makes them start looking at the d… https://t.co/hdRRwv8Zbk— carol cadoo (@carol cadoo)1509314692.0
@ABCPolitics @ToniSmithRosari So @WhitefishEnergy, I guess the answer is yes on the 84 linemen now. Funny how all… https://t.co/lLCgMIbzkt— Karl Sexton (@Karl Sexton)1509317422.0
Rosselló told reporters at a news conference at La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion. Rosselló had petitioned for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to cancel the contract because it was a "distraction."
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.
@SRuhle @InSpiteOfTrump Yes. PR didn't hire Whitefish. A board of "investors" did for PREPA. The BANKS made the cal… https://t.co/Vtny9dL1uK— Brian MacDonald (@Brian MacDonald)1509288343.0
Whitefish Montana is the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who said he had nothing to do with the contract, but one of the company's major investors, Joe Colonnetta, poured thousands of dollars to support the Trump campaign.
The contract to help restore energy to Puerto Rico was the largest contract that was not even won out of a competitive bid for Whitefish Energy. Founded in 2015, the small firm had modest beginnings with only two employees by the time Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.
@ABCPolitics All 2 of them will need to get over the fact this corrupt incompetent administration got busted funnel… https://t.co/VjP5Qu6Yvl— #VoteThemOut (@#VoteThemOut)1509315354.0
The firm expressed disappointment with the PREPA power company's decision that "will only delay what the people of Puerto Rico want and deserve — to have the power restored quickly.”
Whitefish issued a statement, saying, “The original decision by [the utility] to have Whitefish Energy come to the Puerto Rico only sped up the repairs, and if it were not for that action, crews would just now be getting to the island to begin the process of rebuilding the system and restoring power."
Whitefish on move to cancel $300M Puerto Rico contract: "We are very disappointed in the decision by Gov. Rosselló"… https://t.co/ifm17Gn0Eu— ABC News Politics (@ABC News Politics)1509314323.0
Dem. Senator Maria Cantwell praised the cancellation of the controversial contract and urged for a federal investigation looking into the deal.
An investigation to determine how we got into this situation in the first place must continue. Taxpayers should pay a fair rate for the emergency repairs Puerto Rico desperately needs — not be gouged by Whitefish Energy or anyone else.
The Whitefish Chief executive Andrew Techmanski's wife Amanda is a nurse practitioner and also listed as one of two managers for Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC. On a federal Energy Department contract it won to repair transmission lines in Arizona, the company was touted as an “economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business.”
Even after signing a deal for major repair work in Puerto Rico, involving the use of helicopters to hoist workers to transmission towers, Whitefish failed a safety audit making the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration revoking the company's license. Yet they still claim they're fit to be restore the city efficiently.
PREPA's executive director Ricardo Ramos announced that Whitefish will be compensated to complete work started on two power lines, a task that could last up to 30 days. According to Ramos, the cancellation is the best thing that can happen.
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