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Whitefish Energy Holdings, LLC / Facebook

Two-Person Company Gets $300 Million Contract to Restore Puerto Rico's Power Grid, Raising Questions

Bipartisan lawmakers expressed concern Tuesday over the contract to restore Puerto Rico's power grid being given to a tiny energy firm from Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's hometown.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority signed a $300 million contract last week with two-year-old Montana-based Whitefish Energy, which employed only two people when Hurricane Maria hit the island last month.


Whitefish is tasked with restoring more than 100 miles of transmission lines on the island, where 75 percent of the population remains without power. Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee are pushing for a "full investigation" into the contract, while House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) told reporters he has "questions" about the bid selection process.

As reported by the New York Times:

"'Absolutely outrageous,' said Eduardo Bhatia, a Puerto Rican opposition senator who wrote an energy law in 2014. 'A two-employee company from Whitefish, Mont., gets a $300 million contract out of nowhere? Based on what?'

Mr. Bhatia said the authority did not appear to have made any open requests for proposals, to have performed any regular background checks or to have followed normal safeguards and checks before awarding the contract.

The House Committee on Natural Resources said on Tuesday that it was looking into the contract. Parish Braden, the committee's communications director, said that members of the panel would travel to Puerto Rico this week to seek more answers about the details of the contract and how it was reached."

"Congress needs to understand why the Whitefish contract was awarded and whether other, more cost-effective options were available," Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., the senior Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement.

The BBC reported that "questions have been raised about whether political donations made to President Donald Trump's campaign and allied groups could have influenced the decision.

A review of federal election data showed that a founding partner in HBC Investments, one of the two Texas firms that backs Whitefish Energy Holdings—had donated $2,700 to Mr. Trump's presidential campaign, as well as $20,000 to a group that supported the White House bid."

For a deeper dive:

New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, USA Today, BBC, The Hill, Reuters

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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Earth Day Tips From the EcoWatch Team

At EcoWatch, every day is Earth Day. We don't just report news about the environment—we aim to make the world a better place through our own actions. From conserving water to cutting waste, here are some tips and tricks from our team on living mindfully and sustainably.

Lorraine Chow, reporter

Favorite Product: Dr. Bronner's Castile soap

It's Earth-friendly, lasts for months and can be used as soap, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner and even mouthwash (but I wouldn't recommend that).

Essential Tool: Blender

It has paid for itself in homemade smoothies, soups, sauces and dips. It also means I don't have to buy those individual foods in unnecessary plastic containers. Blending scraps helps your compost, too!

Earth Day Tip: Skip the straw

If you feel weird about saying "no straw" at restaurants, just tell the waiter that you're allergic to plastic.

Olivia Rosane, reporter

Favorite Product: Seventh Generation products

Their household cleaning and personal care products are a great way to take care of yourself and your home in a way that is safe both for your health and the planet. Plus, their packaging is made from recycled materials and is designed to be recycled again.

Essential Tool: My portable thermos

I bring it with me when I order coffee or tea to go. That way I don't have to use paper cups, which are not actually recyclable, and some coffee shops even offer me a discount for bringing my own container!

Earth Day Tip: Get involved

In 2012, researcher Brad Werner ran a computer model and found our best shot at combating climate change was for people to form a mass social movement to demand it. So if you're worried about the environment, reach out to other people in your community and talk about what you can do together to make a difference!

Tara Bracco, managing editor

Favorite Product: Collapsible water bottle

Whether you're traveling or running errands, a reusable water bottle that's light and compact will help keep you hydrated and keep you from buying bottled water.

Essential Tool: Backpack

It's great for carrying your groceries home from the store, and you won't have to use plastic bags. If you have a long shopping list, try a rolling suitcase.

Earth Day Tip: Don't waste water

Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. It can save eight gallons of water a day!

Chris McDermott, news editor

Favorite Product: Clothes from Patagonia

Patagonia makes a wide range of inspired products and their environmental policies are world class. They use only organic cotton in their clothes, and they even offer trade-ins, recycling and repairs at any time.

Essential Tool: RIVER mobile power station and solar generator

This powerful piece of mind is always ready regardless of storms and travel, for as long as one can tap the sun.

Earth Day Tip: Savor something vegan

There's no nutritional substitute for fresh, unprocessed food, but food science has revolutionized the taste and texture of vegan alternatives. For the pure delight of it, celebrate with Miyoko's Kitchen vegan cheese, Tofurky Italian sausage (30 grams of protein per serving!) and SoDelicious non-dairy dark chocolate truffle frozen dessert made with cashew milk.

Irma Omerhodzic, associate editor

Favorite Product: Living Libations's Everybody Loves the Sunshine

Unlike sunscreen, this skin product works with the sun and helps absorb the nutrients from the sun's rays while giving skin protection at the same time.

"Rather than being afraid of the sun, harmonize with it," Living Libations says. Love it!

Essential Tool: My bike

Not only is this an emission-free way to get around town, but it also gives my body the activity it needs.

Earth Day Tip: Start small

Your one "small" action isn't small at all.

Jordan Simmons, social media coordinator

Favorite Product: Sustainable clothing by Amanda Sage Collection

Designer Lana Gurevich uses patterns from Amanda's transformative paintings to create an ethically and environmentally conscious clothing line. While supporting local businesses and an eco-friendly printing method, the fabrics are made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles.

Essential Tool: My paintbrush and set of mineral paints

I found the all natural, biodegradable mineral paints at a local farmers' market in the Sacred Valley of Peru. I used to favor working with acrylic paints until I learned about their high carbon footprint and harmful substances.

Earth Day Tip: Honor Mother Earth

Gather some of Mother Nature's gifts such as stones, beautiful dried leaves and feathers. Set them in a special place in your home to create a unique "altar" to remind you to honor your Mother each and every day. Find peace and blessings in loving our home—the earth.

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