Whitefish Energy Charged $319 An Hour To Fix Puerto Rico's Busted Grid

Elias Hubbard
November 14, 2017

Whitefish's $300 million contract was canceled by Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló in late October after questions were raised about how the two-year-old firm from Interior Sec.

"We have to pay a premium to entice the labor to come to Puerto Rico to work", Chiames said, adding that many workers are being paid overtime. An employee with PREPA, who had a satellite phone and phone number called Whitefish following the hurricane, according to a report in September from E&E News.

He also asserted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) helped PREPA prepare the Whitefish contract to be compliant with federal rules, something that FEMA has forcefully denied. PREPA compared Whitefish Energy's rates to the rates in other proposals PREPA received and determined that Whitefish Energy's rates were competitive with those other rates. Their 40 co-workers from Jacksonville, also linemen, are making up to $100 earning double time, public records show. Another no-bid contract, worth $187 million, was issued to Mammoth Energy Services, a company better known for its work in the hydraulic fracturing industry.

The Times spoke to six electrical workers from Kissimmee, Fla., who are now working on bringing electricity back to the island. Whitefish utilized local resources where possible and delivered on its promise to start performing work before any other contractor on that island mobilized. Reasons for criticism were varied.

Also under scrutiny are several connections between the company and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Hurricane Maria left the 3.4 million people who live on the USA territory without power, and weeks later, thousands still don't have electricity. Several congressional committees are investigating the contract, as is the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security, and the F.B.I. Zinke and the company's chief executive both hail from the same Montana town, and Zinke's son worked for Whitefish last summer, according to the Times.

The contract was awarded shortly after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico.

Keep in mind that there were no "market prices" for this type of storm work on an island that had virtually no power and no external communications, and whose access roads and transportation infrastructure were destroyed. Some areas affected by the Thursday outage had reportedly only enjoyed a return to electricity for less than a week before it once again disappeared.

This is the largest blackout in US history, and efforts to restore electricity provision to the Puerto Rican population were not helped by a major power line failure last Thursday, which reduced capacity to 18%.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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