San Juan mayor calls to ‘void’ contract awarded to tiny Montana company
The mayor of Puerto Rico’s largest city is calling for a contract to fix the island’s hurricane-ravaged electrical grid to be “voided” after it was awarded to a small Montana firm.
Whitefish Energy last week signed a $300 million contract to help overhaul the island’s grid following Hurricane Maria. The company is only two years old and had just two employees when the territory’s utility, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), signed the contract. It is based in the Montana hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told Yahoo News in an interview published Wednesday that the contract is “alarming.”
“The contract should be voided right away and a proper process which is clear, transparent, legal, moral and ethical should take place,” she continued.
“It seems like what the Puerto Rican people are going to be paying for, or the American people are going to be paying for, is an intermediary that doesn’t know what is at stake here and that really has to subcontract everything. … What we need is somebody that can get the job done and that has the expertise to get the job done.”
Whitefish and the Puerto Rican government have defended the contract.
The company said in a statement Wednesday that Cruz’s comments are “misplaced,” noting a workforce of 300 people on the island.
“We are making progress and doing work when others are not even here,” the company said. “We find her comments to be very disappointing and demoralizing to the hundreds of people on our team that have left their homes and families and have come here to help the people of Puerto Rico.”
In a statement, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said the contract went to Whitefish because it didn’t need money upfront, something the island’s struggling utility couldn’t provide.
“Of all those who met the requirements and aggressive schedules to bring brigades, one was asking for a substantial amount of money — which PREPA had no liquidity for — and another did not require it,” he said. “That other one is Whitefish.”
— Updated at 2:34 p.m.