Energy

Puerto Rico Still Hasn’t Paid Sketchy Firm Hired To Fix Their Grid

REUTERS/Alvin Baez

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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Puerto Rico has not yet paid a small electrical firm for repairing part of the island’s infrastructure after a hurricane devastated Puerto Rico in October 2017, Politico reported.

Whitefish Energy Holdings is a Montana firm that received national scrutiny after Puerto Rico’s state-owned utility awarded the company a $300 million contract to repair damage from Hurricane Maria. Whitefish is meeting with Congress legislators in attempt to recoup the $104.1 million worth of work it completed before the contract was canceled early due to controversy, according to Politico.

Whitefish is trying to repair its damaged reputation from the contract controversy.

“The records show we successfully repaired and restored the 5 transmission line segments that officials placed in our care, plus repairs to over 200 miles of critical distribution line infrastructure,” Whitefish told Politico in a statement. “We are grateful that the accurate record of our work in Puerto Rico is coming to light, even as our hearts remain with those on the island who are still struggling.”

Some members of Congress are sympathetic to Whitefish, while lawmakers are not sold that Whitefish deserves to be paid for the work it accomplished without finishing the contract.

“I don’t hold Whitefish necessarily accountable here; they were pretty up front; it was PREPA in Puerto Rico that I think caused the problem by just being stupid and offering the contract,” House Natural Resources Committee Chair GOP Rep. Rob Bishop told Politico. “I can’t answer the question on whether they should be paid or not because I just flat-out don’t know.”

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) in 2017 awarded the large contract to Whitefish — a two-year-old firm with two full-time employees and ties to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The deal inspired an FBI-and-legislator-led investigation. The contract was a no-bid agreement, and Whitefish charged Puerto Rico $319 an hour per employee. The company paid at least some of its lineman $42 an hour — far below the $63 an hour other workers from Montana received.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long also testified that his agency had no idea the contract had been signed and would not have approved the agreement.

PREPA Executive Director Ricardo Ramos resigned after the contract backlash. PREPA, which has been plagued with bankruptcy and corruption, would be privatized, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced.

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