FEMA disavows Puerto Rico power contract awarded to tiny company

Aaron Brown
October 30, 2017

Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló demanded the cancellation of a highly disputed $300 million contract awarded to Whitefish Energy, a tiny American company tasked with restoring power to the still storm-ravaged island. And the firm is based in Whitefish, Montana, the hometown of President Trump's Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

"We need answers from Whitefish, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and the federal government - and we need them soon", McCaskill said.

On Sunday, Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rossello, asked the governing board of Puerto Rico's power authority to immediately cancel its contract.

Questions have been raised not only about the selection of the firm, but also details of the Whitefish Energy contract, which say that no oversight is allowed by federal officials or the government of Puerto Rico.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) has denied claims by The Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (Prepa), the U.S. territory's main utility, that it reviewed the deal.

First reported by Daily Beast contributor Ken Klippenstein, the contract awarded to Whitefish Energy seems to heavily favor the company.

A White House spokesman told CNN the decision to give the contract to Whitefish was made exclusively by PREPA.

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"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.

In response to the appointment of Zamot, Whitefish said it looked forward to briefing him on its work and discussing what still needed to be done. And Whitefish didn't do itself any favors by engaging in a Twitter feud with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. It has been working under contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. The company had never taken on repairs on the scale of the destruction suffered in Puerto Rico.

Zinke's office told the Post that he had had no role in the contract.

But last week Rosselló asked the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general to review the contracting process, even while seeming to defend Whitefish for "providing important recovery services to PREPA in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which completely destroyed the Island's electrical grid system".

This first audit is being conducted by the Puerto Rico Office of Management and Budget.

"If there is no wrongdoing, if it has been done correctly, then we will push forward", Rosselló said.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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