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Puerto Rico working to cancel Whitefish Energy restoration deal

By Daniel Uria
Puerto Rico working to cancel Whitefish Energy restoration deal
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello called for the cancelation of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority's $300 million power restoration deal with Montana-based Whitefish Energy in favor of coordinating with utility companies in Florida and New York. Photo courtesy of Ricardo Rossello/Twitter

Oct. 29 (UPI) -- The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is moving toward canceling a $300 million power restoration contract with a small Montana-based company on Sunday.

The executive director of PREPA Ricardo Ramos reported the Board of Governors accepted Gov. Ricardo Rossello's request to cancel the deal with Whitefish Energy Holdings which will require 30 days of prior notice.

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Ramos added that $10.9 million has already been payed and an additional $ 9.8 million has been invoiced for work done by Whitefish, as Puerto Rico will seek assistance from other states to restore its power after Hurrican Maria struck the island.

"We have several alternatives: increase the scope of companies already contracted, ask the Corps of Engineers to increase their hiring, hire the [brigades] of Whitefish," Ramos said.

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The move toward cancelation came after Gov. Ricardo Rossello held a press conference asking PREPA to cancel the deal and coordinate with utility companies in Florida and New York.

"As a result of the information that has been revealed and the need to protect the public interest, as governor I am asking the power authority to cancel the Whitefish contract immediately," Rossello said.

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Rossello said he had discussions with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to have state officials assume the task of restoring Puerto Rico's power.

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Rossello referred to the Whitefish Energy contract as a "distraction" after questions were raised about the company's capability to handle the restoration project. More than 80 percent of people living in Puerto Rico are still without power.

"There can be no distraction that alters the commitment to lift the electrical system as quickly as possible," Rossello said.

He also called for a "special outside coordinator" to monitor PREPA's purchases to provide " more clarity in this process."

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Whitefish Energy formed two years ago and had two employees when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, six days before the Montana company was awarded the contract.

Rossello had previously requested the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security inspect the deal. He also asked Puerto Rico's Office of Management and Budget to audit the deal to ensure it complies with federal law.

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 U.S. commonwealth.

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