Puerto Rico's Power Authority Cancels Controversial Whitefish Contract

Puerto Rico's Frantic Search for Someone to Turn on the Lights

Puerto Rico's Frantic Search for Someone to Turn on the Lights

Puerto Rico is scrapping a deal with a tiny American firm that fell under intense scrutiny after it nabbed a lucrative contract to restore electricity to the storm-ravaged island, the head of its power authority said Sunday.

The Trump administration said Friday it had no involvement in the decision to award Whitefish the contract to help restore Puerto Rico's power grid.

Rossello said that at least $8 million has been paid to Whitefish so far, but "there can not be any kind of distraction that alters the commitment to restore electrical power as soon as possible in Puerto Rico".

Since graduating in Utica, Techmanski's profile lists many leadership positions at companies in Denver, Canada, the United Kingdom and San Diego.

FEMA said in a statement Friday that any language in the contract saying the agency approved the deal with Whitefish Energy Holdings is inaccurate.

The CEO of a company that received a highly scrutinized contract to restore power to Puerto Rico was born and raised in Baldwinsville. Whitefish has said the company has expertise in mountainous areas, and arrived in Puerto Rico before other companies. It has been working under contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

Federal investigators have been looking into the contract awarded to the small company from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown and the deal is being audited at the local and federal level. It had just two full-time employees when the storm hit on September 20.

"They're doing an excellent job", he said.

Scott's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Whitefish Energy had won a $300-million contract to help turn the lights back on in Puerto Rico, where some 80 percent of customers still lack power more than a month after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island home to some 3.4 million people.

The White House and FEMA, the federal disaster management agency, said on Friday they had nothing to do with hiring Whitefish Energy to restore power in the US commonwealth.

FEMA has denied approving the contract.

Though Zinke and Techmanski acknowledge knowing one another, the Interior Department and Techmanski both told the Washington Post the secretary played no role in Whitefish securing the contract.

Ramos, in a press conference Sunday, noted that the initial enthusiasm from residents over Whitefish employees coming to the island had shifted in the last several days after media reported the details of the contract. Chiames, the Whitefish spokesman, has said that Colonnetta's political donations were "irrelevant" and that the company would co-operate with any federal authorities.

PREPA tapped Whitefish to restore electric infrastructure in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which knocked out 80 percent of the US territory's transmission lines.

A federal control board that oversees Puerto Rico's finances announced this week that retired Air Force Col. Noel Zamot will be in charge of power reconstruction efforts.

Previously Congressional Democrats began asking the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the contract.

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