Puerto Rico governor demands problematic energy deal be scrapped

Georgia Reed
October 30, 2017

Puerto Rico's governor has called for a contract given to a tiny Montana firm to help reconstruct the island's power grid to be cancelled, his office said.

Whitefish Energy formed two years ago and had two employees when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, six days before the Montana company was awarded the contract.

Since graduating in Utica, Techmanski's profile lists many leadership positions at companies in Denver, Canada, the United Kingdom and San Diego.

"Any attempts by the dishonest media or political operatives to tie me to awarding or influencing any contract involving Whitefish are completely baseless", he says in a statement.

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

Ramos said he had not talked with Whitefish executives about his announcement.

Prepa and the Puerto Rican government are saddled with massive debts. And the firm is based in Whitefish, Montana, the hometown of President Trump's Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

"They're doing an excellent job", he said.

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The White House and FEMA, the federal disaster management agency, said on Friday they had nothing to do with hiring Whitefish Energy to restore power in the USA commonwealth. So PREPA CEO Ricardo Ramos made a deal with Whitefish, which asked for no such guarantee. Rosselló added that the contract "appeared to comply 100% with FEMA regulations".

Though Zinke and Techmanski acknowledge knowing one another, the Interior Department and Techmanski both told the Washington Post the secretary played no role in Whitefish securing the contract.

The Associated Press obtained Whitefish's contract, which called for payments of $20,277 an hour for a heavy lift Chinook helicopter, $650 an hour for a large crane truck, $322 an hour for a foreman of a power line crew, $319 an hour for a journeyman lineman and $286 an hour for a mechanic.

"The White House is not aware of any federal involvement in the selection", White House spokesman Raj Shah said.

Raul Grijalva of Arizona, senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said on Tuesday, "Congress needs to understand why the Whitefish contract was awarded and whether other, more cost-effective options were available".

"Transparent accountability at (the power company) is necessary for an effective and sustained recovery in Puerto Rico", his office said in a statement.

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.

A federal control board that oversees Puerto Rico's finances announced this week that retired Air Force Col. Noel Zamot will be in charge of power reconstruction efforts.

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