The head of Puerto Rico’s much-maligned public utility resigned Friday after Hurricane Maria flattened the American territory’s electric grid.
Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) executive director Ricardo Ramos stepped down, according to local reports. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, a Democrat, announced Ramos’ resignation shortly after a health care event.
“I trust that this process will be completed as quickly as possible, with the purpose of not affecting the work leading to the restoration of the electrical system throughout the island,” said Rosselló, who called the director a “distraction.”
Maria plunged the Puerto Ricco into the worst electricity outage in American history – less than 50 percent of the island has power, but officials will have half the territory’s power back online within a week, Rosselló told Congress Tuesday.
Ramos has faced a battery of questions about a contract PREPA signed with Whitefish Energy –a small, inexperienced energy company based in Montana. Lawmakers have scrutinized the bloated, $300 million rebuilding contract, which is now the subject of watchdog and FBI investigations.
Ramos, for his part, defended the contract before Congress this week, saying Whitefish was preferred because the company didn’t require a large down-payment, something the debt-riddled island can’t afford.
“I authorized the Whitefish contract while we continued to seek additional assistance from others for the complete, multibillion-dollar restoration effort still to come,” Ramos said before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
PREPA eventually nixed the $300 million contract. Whitefish Energy will be paid to complete ongoing work on two transmission lines in the hurricane-ravaged territory, Ramos told reporters in October. Puerto Rico’s immediate needs after the hurricane called for quick action at the time, he said.
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