Puerto Rico cancels Whitefish Energy contract
The governor of Puerto Rico had said he wants the island’s power authority to “immediately” cancel its controversial contract with a small Montana-based utility company.
At issue is a $300 million contract that was awarded to Whitefish Energy to help restore power to parts of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Whitefish is only two years old and had few employees before Hurricane Maria hit. The multimillion-dollar deal with Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, marked the largest contract to be awarded since recovery efforts began more than a month ago.
Whitefish is also based in the small hometown of U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, which has raised questions. Zinke has said he had nothing to do with the contract.
A White House spokesman told CNN the decision to give the contract to Whitefish was made exclusively by PREPA.
“The White House is not aware of any federal involvement in the selection,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Sunday said questions raised around the contract are “interfering with everything” and the distractions are not helping Puerto Rico rebuild.
To help ensure transparency going forward, Rosselló said that he will appoint a finance official to PREPA who will oversee the contracting process. He also asked Puerto Rico’s Office of the Comptroller to conduct a review of how the emergency contract was awarded.
In the meantime, Rosselló said his team is working with the governors of Florida and New York to bring energy workers from those states to help Puerto Rico as quickly as possible.
The controversy surrounding the Whitefish contract has spurred a probe by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, who will also be looking at how the firm was selected.
Last week, Rosselló indicated he would be willing to move forward with the Whitefish contract if there was no evidence of misconduct. He also asked the inspector general to complete the review by Monday.
“If there is no wrongdoing, if it has been done correctly then we will push forward,” Rosselló told CNN at the time. “If there is wrongdoing in this process or any process there will be hell to pay.”
Puerto Rico’s already frail power infrastructure was all but destroyed after Maria tore through the island. As of Sunday, only about 30% of Puerto Rico’s power generators were back online, according to PREPA data.