Puerto Rico Terminates Contract with Montana-Based Energy Company
By Cailyn Carr 10/30/17
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) cancelled its $300 million contract with Montana-based Whitefish Energy on Sunday. The announcement came hours after Governor Ricardo Rosselló demanded its cancellation. Whitefish was hired to restore power to the island. More than two-thirds of PREPA’s customers have been without it since Hurricane Maria hit on September 20.
Activists and officials have raised questions about the contract since its confirmation on October 19. Whitefish had only two employees when hired by PREPA and many wondered why the two-year-old company was chosen over more well-equipped and well-known companies. PREPA CEO Ricardo Ramos responded that Whitefish was picked because it did not ask for a down payment and offered to find food and housing for workers.
Controversy surrounding the contract started because Whitefish is based in U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown. There are also suspicions about Whitefish’s extremely high prices. The company charged from $240-$336 per hour for a general foreman, depending on whether they were contractors or subcontractors. Living expenses, too, were high. Costs per worker for meals were $80 a day and $332 a day for lodging.
Rosselló claimed that the contract complied with FEMA regulations. FEMA released a statement on October 27 establishing that it was not involved in the selection of Whitefish and that it has serious concerns about the prices. Members of Congress are calling for an investigation into the contract to find out why Whitefish was selected and if there are cheaper options to restore power to Puerto Rico.