Puerto Rico's Power Authority Cancels Controversial Whitefish Contract

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has "significant concerns" about a $300 million contract to rebuild parts of Puerto Rico's electric grid awarded to a tiny, two-year-old energy company with links to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

"There can be no distraction that alters the commitment to lift the electrical system as quickly as possible", Rossello said.

The competing visions show how hard it has been to restore electricity to three-quarters of the residents of Puerto Rico, who remain in the dark more than a month after Hurricane Maria tore through the US territory.

"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", Rossello said.

The governor of Puerto Rico, the US territory that was devastated by a hurricane a month ago, called Sunday for the immediate cancellation of a contract to restore electrical power to the Caribbean island as questions grow about the small company that was awarded the work. The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, then weighed in on Whitefish, sparking a Twitter feud with the firm, which offered to take its workers home after she criticized the company and how the contract was awarded. The company only had two employees the day Hurricane Maria hit.

The specific terms of the contract also raised eyebrows, from the exorbitant hourly rates charged by Whitefish to its barring of a government audit.

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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.

In defense of the contract with Whitefish, Puerto Rico officials have said the company was willing to work without a down payment, which made it more attractive to the debt-ridden island. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zinke "just for clarification" purposes.

On Friday, top Democrats from that panel and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sent a letter requesting the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general launch an investigation. Rosselló added that the contract "appeared to comply 100% with FEMA regulations".

In a statement on Thursday, Fema said: "Any language in any contract between Prepa and Whitefish that states Fema approved that contract is inaccurate".

"The governor also did not say how the utility would disentangle itself from the contract with Whitefish Energy".

  • Adam Floyd