FEMA disavows Puerto Rico power contract awarded to tiny company

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló called for an immediate cancellation of a tiny Montana firm's $300 million contract to restore power to the storm-hit US territory, his office confirmed Sunday.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said that the contract was a distraction after critics in the electric power industry, Congress and the Federal Emergency Management Agency raised questions about whether the company, Whitefish Energy, was well equipped to respond to the hurricane damage.

"There can be no distraction that alters the commitment to restore the electrical system as quickly as possible", Gov. Ricardo Rossello said on Sunday morning, as he moved to ask for mutual aid from the US mainland to fix his island's decimated power grid.

Puerto Rico is still in shambles 39 days after category 4 Hurricane Maria swept through on September 20. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, senior Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the Whitefish contract "raises every red flag in the book".

The governor of Puerto Rico, the USA territory that was devastated by a hurricane a month ago, called Sunday for the immediate cancellation of a contract to restore electrical power to the Caribbean island as questions grow about the small company that was awarded the work.

First reported by Daily Beast contributor Ken Klippenstein, the contract awarded to Whitefish Energy seems to heavily favor the company.

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Whitefish, which had just two employees when it won the contract, but since hired more than 300, had started work on restoring electrical power to the island, where only about 30 percent of the island's 3.7 million residents have had power since Hurricane Maria ravaged the territory and decimated its electrical grid system.

In a statement on Thursday, Fema said: "Any language in any contract between Prepa and Whitefish that states Fema approved that contract is inaccurate". Whitefish has said the company has expertise in mountainous areas, and arrived in Puerto Rico before other companies.

Speaking to MSNBC on Friday, a Whitefish spokesperson said "the contract speaks for itself as the ability to get work done".

Zinke's office told the Post that he had had no role in the contract.

"The first I heard of the Whitefish Energy contract was through the news", he said.

Ramos also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency had approved of the deal, something the agency has denied. "If there is wrongdoing, in this process or in any process, there will be hell to pay".

  • Sonia Alvarado