Puerto Rico Governor Calls for Cancellation of Power Grid Repair Contract
- Author: Jon Douglas Oct 30, 2017,
Oct 30, 2017, 1:39
The board had to do something: With so many people without power, PREPA is facing heavy criticism for having given the main restoration contract - worth up to $300 million - to Whitefish Energy, a tiny Montana firm with no history of executing on projects of this scale.
This first audit is being conducted by the Puerto Rico Office of Management and Budget.
A $300 million government contract awarded to Whitefish Energy was revealed Friday.
Several probes are under way.
Last week, the White House, the Interior Department, and FEMA all denied playing any role in the selection of the company, which is located in the same home town in Montana as Interior Secretary of Ryan Zinke.
Zinke's department has denied any involvement in the deal, as has the company.
Whitefish has said that it secured the $300m (£228m) deal in a legitimate manner.
Whitefish and PREPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
PREPA tapped Whitefish to restore electric infrastructure in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which knocked out 80 percent of the US territory's transmission lines.
The list of players responsible for getting the lights on is long: The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is responsible for restoring an area after a disaster hits; the Army Corps of Engineers, which does the on-the-ground work of restoring power plants and distribution; Puerto Rico's state and local governments; and PREPA and a handful of private power companies hired by PREPA to do fix work.
Fema also said it had "significant concerns" with how Prepa procured this contract and had "not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable".
The Puerto Rican power authority's decision to forego "mutual aid" agreements with utilities from other areas - as is traditional after large-scale disasters - and assign the job to a for-profit company instead baffled many experts.
They are now seeking to assure the public there is "nothing illegal" about the contract.
And that the Puerto Rican government "waives any claim against contractor related to delayed completion of work". The power authority declared bankruptcy in July.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., chair of the subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, wrote a letter directing the head of Puerto Rico's public utility system to retain all records surrounding the hiring of Whitefish Energy and to turn documents over to Congress.