Whitefish stops work on Puerto Rico power grid over payment dispute
Whitefish Energy, which is under scrutiny over how it was selected for work in Puerto Rico, is halting its efforts on the island’s power grid because it says the local power authority owes it millions of dollars.
In an interview with CNN published Monday, Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski said the company is owed more than $83 million by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and is stopping work because its repeated requests for payment were not fulfilled.
“We stopped because of the financial situation, lack of payment with PREPA has gotten beyond its maximum threshold and what we can sustain as a business,” Techmankski said.
The company’s CEO said that it has employed more than 500 contractors and subcontractors on its work to restore the island’s power grid following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.
Whitefish accused PREPA of delaying payments to the company, including more than $26 million that was already approved by the power authority.
Techmanski blasted PREPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, saying his company was assured “there was money available to pay us for 100% of our work.”
“It may have not been the best business decision coming to work for a bankrupt island,” Techmanski told CNN.
A PREPA spokesperson told CNN the company would not give any statements on Whitefish until investigations into the company were finished.
“The Whitefish contract is under investigation by the state and federal authorities,” spokeswoman Odalys de Jesus said, according to CNN. “We will not give more information or statements until the investigation process ends. The reason is to prevent the process from being affected.”
Whitefish Energy, a tiny Montana company, was awarded a $300 million contract to help restore power in Puerto Rico.
The island canceled the contract with Whitefish Energy on Oct. 29 over the controversy surrounding the deal.
When Maria hit Puerto Rico, the energy company had only two full-time employees, and critics argued it wasn’t properly staffed to handle such a large crisis.
The contract also came under fire because it contained provisions barring the government from reviewing labor costs or profits related to the company’s work in Puerto Rico.
The FBI announced at the end of October that it was investigating the contract and how Whitefish and PREPA came to the agreement.
The small energy company is located in the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, but Zinke said he “had absolutely nothing to do” with the company receiving the contract.