Puerto Rico Cancels Whitefish Energy Contract, FBI Reportedly Investigating
Ricardo Ramos, CEO of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), announced Sunday the agency will cancel its contract with Whitefish Energy after the company “finish(es) what they started.” The announcement comes a day after the island’s governor, Ricardo Roselló requested that the deal be torn up. Whitefish Energy, a two-person outfit out of Whitefish, Mont., raised eyebrows when it landed the $300 million, no-bid contract in the weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and left the U.S. territory largely without power.
Frustrations in Puerto Rico have been building since the storm hit and recovery efforts have been slow to reconnect power to the island’s 3.4 million residents. On Oct. 25, San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz took to Twitter, challenging the contract with Whitefish:
In response, Whitefish Energy replied, “We’ve got 44 linemen rebuilding power lines in your city & 40 more men just arrived. Do you want us to send them back or keep working?” Later that day, the company apologized for its response to Cruz, saying its goal was “to do all we can to help everyone in Puerto Rico in this time of need.”
But in the wake of that Twitter spat, continued analysis of the Whitefish contract has revealed that its terms prevented oversight and review of the deal’s financials, and that there was no public bidding process involved in striking the deal.
In response to the criticism, Whitefish has said it landed the work because “we took the call and we’re here.” According to a report by CNN, the company had previously struck up a relationship with Puerto Rico as the island braced for Hurricane Irma. That storm left the island relatively unscathed, but it booked up other energy companies in damage-laden areas of the mainland U.S. So, when Maria hit Puerto Rico, both Whtiefish and PREPA were ready to work together.
The FBI is now investigating this turn of events, reports the Wall Street Journal. Whitefish says it will cooperate fully with the investigation, a company spokesman said. “The procurement of the PREPA contract was at all times fully appropriate,” he added.