The Financial Express

Powerless Puerto Rico to scrap $300 million Whitefish energy grid deal, several inquiries launched

| Updated: November 02, 2017 11:48:11

More than five weeks after Storm Maria, most Puerto Ricans are still in the dark. - Reuters file photo More than five weeks after Storm Maria, most Puerto Ricans are still in the dark. - Reuters file photo

Puerto Rico's governor has called for the cancellation of a contract given to a tiny Montana firm to help rebuild the island's power grid.

The head of the US-controlled island's power authority on Sunday said he accepted Ricardo Rossello's recommendation and intended to cancel the deal.

The $300 million contract was given to Whitefish Energy, which has little experience of work on such a scale, without a public bid process.

Several inquiries are under way, the BBC reports.

More than 70 per cent of people on Puerto Rico were without power as of Sunday morning - more than five weeks after the powerful hurricane devastated the power grid.

The governor said he had asked the board of governors of the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (Prepa) to cancel the Whitefish contract.

"There can be no distraction to alter the commitment to restore the power system as quickly as possible," he said.

In response, the Prepa Executive Director Ricardo Ramos said he was seeking the contract's cancellation.

The governor also said he had instructed Prepa to "immediately coordinate with the states of Florida and New York to reinforce brigades" that are currently rebuilding the grid on the island.

Concerns had also been raised about why Puerto Rican authorities had not requested "mutual aid" from other public power authorities, as is typical during disasters in the US.

In a statement reacting to the news, Whitefish Energy said it was "very disappointed in the decision" and that the decision would "only delay what the people of Puerto Rico want and deserve - to have the power restored quickly in the same manner their fellow citizens on the mainland experience after a natural disaster".

The White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) distanced themselves from the deal late last week.

The company has its headquarters in the town of Whitefish, the hometown of US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Mr Zinke has denied any involvement or wrongdoing.

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