Quantcast
Popular
Fallen trees, power lines and debris kept the municipality of Cayey isolated for days after Hurricane Maria struck. Puerto Rico National Guard / Flickr

Controversy Remains After Cancellation of Whitefish Energy's Puerto Rico Contract

Puerto Rico's electric power authority (PREPA) has cancelled Whitefish Energy Holdings' controversial $300 million contract to help rebuild the U.S. territory's Hurricane Maria-wrecked power grid.

The small Montana-based power company said it was "very disappointed" with the decision which came after Gov. Ricardo Rosselló called on PREPA to "immediately" cancel the deal.


Many questions have been raised about how the two-year-old firm from Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's hometown landed such a lucrative, no-bid contract. Whitefish employed only two full-time staff members before the Category 4 storm struck Puerto Rico more than a month ago.

"The decision will only delay what the people of Puerto Rico want and deserve—to have the power restored quickly in the same manner their fellow citizens on the mainland experience after a natural disaster," Whitefish said in a statement. "We will certainly finish any work that PREPA wants us to complete and stand by our commitments knowing that we made an important contribution to the restoration of the power grid since our arrival on the island on October 2."

Zinke and the White House have denied playing any role in securing the deal. 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."

PREPA CEO Ricardo Ramos said at a Sunday press conference that the contract is "not canceled as of yet," as it requires 30 days of prior notice.

Ramos said he will need to talk to Whitefish, noting, "the plan is not to demobilize them either, we will let them finish what they have started. As of Sunday, less than 30 percent of Puerto Rico's electricity has been restored.

According to Whitefish, 350 workers have been brought to the island and the company still plans to have 500 total workers this week. It said it had helped restore power to hospitals, businesses and residents of Manati, and will soon complete work on a project to restore power to 500,000 people in the city of San Juan.

"We only wish the best for the great people of Puerto Rico," the firm continued it its statement. "We are very proud of our contributions to the island's recovery and proud of the tremendous work that our team has done under very challenging conditions."

The controversy is unlikely to go away soon. The House Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources Committees are both investigating the issue.

Eyebrows are being raised at the contract itself, which allows for unspecified "allowance for profit on work done" in the event of cancellation.

On top of that, government bodies do not have the right to "audit or review the cost and profit elements."

The Hill reported that FEMA Administrator Brock Long will be testifying at Wednesday's Homeland Security hearing, where lawmakers are sure to grill officials over the contract as well as the federal government's broader response to this season's other devastating hurricanes.

The agency on Friday said it also had "significant concerns" with the deal—which FEMA has to pay for even though PREPA signed the contract.

"Based on initial review and information from PREPA, FEMA has significant concerns with how PREPA procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable," FEMA said in its statement.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Popular

5 Recent Victories for the Oceans

By Andy Sharpless

In the last several weeks, Oceana and its allies won five important victories that will help protect biodiversity and increase abundance in our seas:

Keep reading... Show less
Snow in Atlanta on Jan. 17, 2018. Lisa Panero / Flickr

Climate Change and Weather Extremes: Both Heat and Cold Can Kill

By Garth Heutel, David Molitor and Nolan Miller

Climate change is increasing the frequency and strength of some types of extreme weather in the U.S., particularly heat waves. Last summer the U.S. Southwest experienced life-threatening heat waves, which are especially dangerous for elderly people and other vulnerable populations.

More recently, record-setting cold temperatures engulfed much of the country during the first week of 2018. This arctic blast has been blamed for dozens of deaths. Some scientists believe that Arctic warming may be a factor in this type of persistent cold spell, although others question this connection.

Keep reading... Show less
Trump Watch
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cristian L. Ricardo

One Year Into the Trump Administration, Where Do We Stand?

By John R. Platt

What a long, strange year it's been.

Saturday, Jan. 20 marks the one-year anniversary of the Trump administration officially taking office after a long and arduous election. It's a year that has seen seemingly unending attacks on science and the environment, along with a rise in hateful rhetoric and racially motivated policies. But it's almost been met by the continuing growth of the efforts to resist what the Trump administration has to offer.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Chris J. Ratcliffe / Greenpeace

Greenpeace Slams Coca-Cola Plastic Announcement as ‘Dodging the Main Issue’

By Louise Edge

Friday Greenpeace criticized Coca-Cola's new global plastics plan for failing to address the urgency of ocean plastic pollution.

The long awaited policy from the world's largest soft drink company featured a series of measures weaker than those previously announced for Europe and the UK.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
The two young Iowa vandals knocked over 50 hives and exposed the bees to deadly winter temperatures. Colby Stopa / Flickr

Two Boys Charged With Killing Half a Million Honeybees in Iowa

Two boys were charged with killing more than a half million bees at a honey business in Iowa last month.

"All of the beehives on the honey farm were destroyed and approximately 500,000 bees perished in the frigid temperatures," Sioux City police said in a release.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy

Are Microwaves Really as Bad for the Environment as Cars?

According to many headlines blared around the Internet this week, "microwaves are as damaging to the environment as cars." But this misleading information, based on a new study from the University of Manchester, hopefully doesn't make you feel guilty about zapping your next Hot Pocket.

The research, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, found that microwave ovens across the European Union generate as much carbon dioxide as nearly 7 million cars and consume an estimated 9.4 terawatts per hour of electricity per year. Okay, that sounds like a lot. But also consider that there are about 130 million microwaves in Europe and some 291 million vehicles on its roads.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
GMO

Monsanto's Roundup Destroys Healthy Microbes in Humans and in Soils

By Julie Wilson

We're only beginning to learn the importance of healthy gut bacteria to our overall health—and the relationship between healthy soil and the human microbiome.

We know that the human microbiome, often referred to as our "second brain," plays a key role in our health, from helping us digest the food we eat, to boosting our brain function and regulating our immune systems.

Keep reading... Show less
Trump Watch
Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke refused to meet with National Park System Advisory Board members last year, prompting most of them to quit. Gage Skidmore / Flickr

From National Parks to the EPA, Trump Administration Stiff-Arms Science Advisers

By Elliott Negin

The Trump administration's testy relationship with science reminds me of that old saying: Advice is least heeded when most needed.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!