Puerto Rico Sends Ryan Zinke's Neighbor Packing

Only about 30 percent of utility customers in Puerto Rico have had their power restored.

The FBI is examining the $300 million contract that was recently signed and then canceled between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and Whitefish Energy Holdings to fix Puerto Rico's power grid, the Wall Street Journal reports.

"In light of the information that has come about, with regards to the contracting of Whitefish Energy and in the interest of protecting our public interest", the governor said. The 2-year-old company had just two full-time employees when the storm hit, but it has since hired more than 300 workers. He said the cancellation will delay pending work by 10 to 12 weeks if no alternatives are found.

Despite Donald Trump's claims that the administration's recovery effort in Puerto Rico merits a "10 out of 10", the US territory remains in the throes of a major humanitarian crisis.

"I had absolutely nothing to do with Whitefish Energy receiving a contract in Puerto Rico", he tweeted Friday along with a statement blaming the "dishonest media" or "political operatives" for trying to tie him to the company.

Why PREPA made a decision to forgo mutual aid and wait until six days after the storm to ink a deal with a little-known contractor from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown funded by a donor to President Trump remains unclear.

The contract noted that, even without securing "approvals or funding from FEMA or some other source", PREPA would still owe Whitefish for its work. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders has also denied any involvement in the deal on behalf of the Trump administration.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, multiple congressional committees and local auditors have begun requesting documents about the deal, according to the WSJ. It said the company brought 350 workers and was on track to have more than 500 linesmen on the island by this week. Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski, who told NBC News that he first made contact with Puerto Rico officials through LinkedIn, also called it a "witch hunt looking for something that does not exist".

If Gov. Rosselló gets his way and the contract is canceled, the governor wants to bring in more power crews from NY and Florida.

A clause in Whitefish's contract stated that "pay rates and other terms of the agreement could not be audited or reviewed by FEMA, the commonwealth, the comptroller general or PREPA". The company's lack of a track record and association with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke seemed extremely fishy, as did the actual contract that basically said that Puerto Rico couldn't audit the company and would pay its line workers almost twice as much as utility workers received to bring Florida and Houston back up to speed. He defended his agency and the deal, citing Puerto Rico's emergency needs.

  • Rogelio Becker