Energy

FEMA Official Praises Sketchy Utility Company Involved In Puerto Rico Grid Deal

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Chris White Tech Reporter

An official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) praised a Montana-based energy company that was widely criticized for its work trying to repair Puerto Rico’s hurricane ravaged grid.

Whitefish Energy was there at the beginning and did an excellent job trying to repair the island’s grid, Ash Tribble, the Deputy Regional Administrator for the FEMA Region 9 Office, said Feb. 1 during a meeting in New York City.

“Without getting kicked from my attorney, Whitefish was there early,” she told members of the Federal Oversight Board of Puerto Rico. “They did a good job.  They took a risk and that risk is still being weighed.”

Tribble’s comments come four months after FEMA head Brock Long testified in Congress that his agency didn’t know about a $300 million no-bid contract Puerto Rico granted to Whitefish. FEMA probably would not have approved the contract had it known, he added.

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) awarded the non-competitive bid to Whitefish, a Montana company with two employees at the time and little experience with federal contracting. PREPA canceled the contract amid criticism.

Media pundits and reporters became obsessed with Whitefish’s connection to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose son worked for the company. Zinke consistently said he has had no role in the selection of Whitefish.

The contract was awarded shortly after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico. An employee with PREPA, who had a satellite phone and phone number called Whitefish following the hurricane, according to a report in September from E&E News..

PREPA apparently had access to the phone number because the company issued a request for proposals when Hurricane Irma caused minor damage to the island two weeks earlier. Whitefish was one of the few companies to respond to the request.

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