A tiny utility company made up of two employees connected to a prominent Trump campaign donor as well as Trump’s Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, received a $300 million payday with a massive contract to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s infrastructure.
The young and unheard of two-year-old company, Whitefish Energy Holdings, was awarded Puerto Rico’s biggest contract last month, with the gargantuan task of restoring Puerto Rico’s power. This has raised numerous questions of concern regarding political favoritism and the overlooking of other, more equipped utility companies.
Whitefish, a private, for-profit infant utility company from Montana reportedly had only two employees when Hurricane Maria laid devastation to Puerto Rico, and yet the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) chose them to restore electricity to the island’s 3 million residents. In awarding this contract, PREPA chose not to activate “mutual aid” arrangements with other, larger utilities, which are more commonly used following natural disasters – including Texas and Florida.
Whitefish claimed this week that they have in fact 280 workers currently on the island, most of them subcontracted from across the country, with that list growing every day. The company further claims it is already close to completing infrastructure that will restore power to key industrial facilities. Yet as of Tuesday, a month since PREPA signed the contract with Whitefish, only 75 percent of the island has power.
According to The Washington Post, Whitefish’s contract entails the following rates:
- $330 per hour for a site supervisor
- $227.88 per hour for a “journeyman lineman”
- $462 per hour for a subcontractor supervisor
- $319.04 per hour for a subcontractor lineman
- $332 per worker per day for nightly accomodation
- $80 per worker per day for food
The contract was awarded without a competitive bidding process, which has raised ethical and legal concerns with capital San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who described the contract as “alarming.”
“The contract should be voided right away and a proper process which is clear, transparent, legal, moral, and ethical should take place,” Yulin said.
“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,” she said of Whitefish. “What we need is somebody that can get the job done and that has the expertise to get the job done.”
FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have distanced themselves from the Whitefish contract.
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