Puerto Rico Gov. Seeks Immediate Cancellation Of Whitefish Energy Contract
Oct 30 2017
Rossello and other officials have rejected the appointment, saying the local government is in charge of a power company that is $9 billion in debt and had struggled with outages before hurricanes Irma and Maria last month.
Adding to suspicions, Whitefish is based in the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, spurring him to issue a denial of involvement.
Puerto Rico's Gov. Ricardo Rossello on Sunday called for the termination of a $300 million contract to fix Puerto Rico's hurricane-damaged electricity infrastructure awarded to a tiny Montana utility company financed by major donors to President Donald Trump.
And it contained some startling terms.
Zinke says that neither he nor anyone in his office has advocated for the company.
It states that, "In no event shall [government bodies] have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements". That person would coordinate the federal government, PREPA and contractors - and perhaps get all the relevant entities rowing in the same direction and at the same speed.
The contract was causing alarm for some in the days that preceded its release.
Rossello also said he has asked the Office of the Comptroller for a detailed and thorough investigation about the contracting process that the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority used to select Whitefish. The contract was awarded without a competitive bidding process, Reuters reported, which drew criticism from lawmakers who are now looking into the deal. DeFazio is top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, while Grijalva is the top Democrat on Natural Resources.
Those senators, Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Ron Wyden of OR, noted the "opaque and limited nature" of the bidding process and "contemporaneous communications" between Whitefish and Trump administration officials such as Zinke.
On Thursday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce requested documents related to the contract from Whitefish. Zinke, a former Montana congressman, knows Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski, and Zinke's son also had a summer job at a Whitefish construction site.
"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", Rosselló said in an usual Sunday morning news conference at La Fortaleza, the governor's mansion. "I was surprised that such a small company from Montana got the contract".
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. She also noted that there is an ongoing audit being conducted about the deal.
The governor also did not say how the utility would disentangle itself from the contract with Whitefish Energy.
The secretary says in a statement that he had absolutely nothing to do with Whitefish Energy receiving a contract in Puerto Rico to help restore the USA territory's power grid.