Puerto Rico Governor Calls For Termination Of Whitefish Contract

Ricardo Rossello wants the $300 million contract that Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority signed with Whitefish Energy to be canceled "immediately", CBS News' David Begnaud reports.

"This is a contract that was determined by local authorities", she said, asserting that the federal government "has nothing to do" with the contract.

Ricardo Rosselló talks to students at Julio Selles Sola Elementary School during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday. Nearly six weeks later, more than two thirds of customers remain in the dark.

"With most of Puerto Rico still without power, and far too many lacking drinking water and proper sewage treatment, the administration patting itself on the back couldn't be more premature or inappropriate, " Schumer said. But questions arose soon after news broke on October 19 that the Montana-based company was chosen over bigger and better known companies vying for the job.

Thirty-nine days after Hurricane Maria hit the territory, Rossello said that he would request assistance from Florida and NY under mutual aid arrangements that utilities traditionally activate to help other states during an emergency.

The $300 million contract between Puerto Rico's power utility and the Montana-based energy firm has been criticized in recent days.

Under the contract, Whitefish is charging $330 an hour for a site supervisor and $227.88 an hour for a "journeyman lineman". The per diems are also expensive: nearly $80 a day for meals, and $332 a day for lodging.

Critics have queried why Puerto Rican authorities did not seek aid from other public utility companies - as is customary during disasters. The power authority declared bankruptcy in July.

See the full text of the contract here.

In defense of the contract with Whitefish, Puerto Rico officials have said the company was willing to work without a down payment, which made it more attractive to the debt-ridden island. "Any attempts by the dishonest media or political operatives to tie me to awarding or influencing any contract involving Whitefish are completely baseless". One of Zinke's sons worked for Whitefish Energy over the summer. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zinke "just for clarification" purposes.

And that the Puerto Rican government "waives any claim against contractor related to delayed completion of work". FEMA on Friday said that it had not approved the Whitefish Energy agreement.

Fema also said it had "significant concerns" with how Prepa procured this contract and had "not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable". "FEMA was not involved in the selection".

Ramos said he is "very comfortable with any investigation" by Congress.

The US House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Caribbean island, is also scrutinising the contract. He also flew to Puerto Rico in a "leap of faith" in hopes of getting the contract. Just last week, the oversight board said it would use its authority to install its own emergency manager to pay closer attention to the day-to-day operations of the utility.


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