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Puerto Rico's governor: Cancel Whitefish contract
30 October 2017, 01:39 | Bernice Figueroa
Puerto Rico's governor said about 95% of Puerto Rico's power could be restored by mid-December
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he "had absolutely nothing to do" with a $300 million contract awarded to a small company from his hometown to help restore Puerto Rico's power grid.
First reported by Daily Beast contributor Ken Klippenstein, the contract awarded to Whitefish Energy seems to heavily favor the company.
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.
The move came as the Congress has already been asking questions about the deal - more than interested by the fact that Whitefish Energy had only two full-time employees at the time that Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico in September.
Those senators, Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Ron Wyden of OR, noted the "opaque and limited nature" of the bidding process and "contemporaneous communications" between Whitefish and Trump administration officials such as Zinke.
At the same time, the island's governor, Ricardo Rosselló, who now controls PREPA, may file suit to block Zamot from taking over, arguing that the control board is making a power grab and exceeding its authority.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello held a press conference asking Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to cancel its deal with Whitefish Energy Holdings and coordinate with utility companies in Florida and NY. "I was surprised that such a small company from Montana got the contract". White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zinke "just for clarification" purposes. She also noted that there is an ongoing audit being conducted about the deal. Zinke, a former Montana congressman, knows Techmanski, and Zinke's son also had a summer job at a Whitefish construction site.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello on Sunday said questions raised around the contract are "interfering with everything" and the distractions are not helping Puerto Rico rebuild.
In an interview Thursday, the utility's chief executive, Ricardo Ramos, said the utility has been pleased with the work so far by Whitefish.
"We can't be responsible for what the others might do", the spokesperson said when asked about the line in the contract that said government agencies may not audit or review cost and profit elements. ". everyone wants to say that there is a conspiracy theory". Zinke has said he had nothing to do with the contract.
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