Nice Work if you Can Get it

October 26, 2017


CBS News:

It’s been more than a month since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, leaving its power grid in shambles.

Now, 75 percent of the island is still without power, and lawmakers in both parties are asking why a small Montana company was granted a $300 million, no-bid contract to help rebuild transmission and distribution lines.

“My biggest concern is we don’t have enough information as to the process that went into that,” said Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs the House committee that oversees Puerto Rico.

The government power company — known as PREPA — signed the contract with Whitefish Energy, a two-person, two-year-old company whose largest previous federal contract had been for $1.3 million to upgrade lines in Arizona.

PREPA filed for bankruptcy in July amid the island’s ongoing debt crisis. It bypassed a network of utilities and a “mutual aid” system that is usually activated for storm recovery.

The $300 million contract is the biggest yet for Puerto Rico’s recovery effort — and for Whitefish, which relies on subcontractors for their work.

“This appears to be a pretty small company,” said Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “Are they capable of doing the job that they’re being asked?”

Murkowski, the chair of the energy committee, expects a hearing on Puerto Rico in the next week. Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell is calling for the Government Accountability Office to investigate.

Now the company has gotten in a fight with the feisty Mayor of San Juan, who questioned the contract.


The Hill:

Whitefish Energy is apologizing after the company feuded with the mayor of San Juan over Twitter and threatened to pull out of recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

“Mayor Cruz and everyone in Puerto Rico — on behalf of our employees, we would like to apologize for our comments earlier today, which did not represent who we are and how important this work is to help Puerto Rico’s recovery,” the company said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“We have a strong team on the ground, we are working hard and making good progress. Our goal is to continue to do all we can to help everyone in Puerto Rico in this time of need.”

Whitefish Energy, which is based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke‘s hometown in Montana, 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.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz called Wednesday for the contract to fix the island’s hurricane-ravaged electrical grid to be “voided” after it was awarded to the small Montana firm.

Cruz told Yahoo News 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 told the publication.

The company responded, saying Cruz’s comments were “misplaced.”

Cruz then questioned what Whitefish Energy is “afraid we will find” if officials think asking for more transparency is “misplaced.”

“We’ve got 44 linemen rebuilding power lines in your city & 40 more men just arrived. Do you want us to send them back or keep working?” Whitefish Energy responded on Twitter.

Cruz shot back, saying the company is threatening not to do their job.

The governor of Puerto Rico requested this week an audit into how the company won a multimillion-dollar contract to restore power to Puerto Rico.

Cruz has in the past feuded with President Trump over Twitter and has accused the administration of not doing enough to help Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

In other news:



5 Responses to “Nice Work if you Can Get it”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    This Whitefish deal sounds like a very smelly dead fish. Have the Republicans no shame. Are the rest of us just going to sit still and let them destroy the country and the planet?

    (And the pay rates are outrageous, although reminiscent of what some “private contractors” made in Iraq and Afghanistan—another present from the Repugs—do it no better and certainly no cheaper).

  2. ubrew12 Says:

    “Do you want us to send them back or keep working?”
    Send them back. You guys got a sweetheart deal that reeks of corruption. If $350 an hour is hardship-pay for you, you definitely need to leave Puerto Rico.

  3. rsmurf Says:

    And how much is stinky fish paying the linemen on the ground? minimum wage?

  4. andrewfez Says:

    That’s how a lot of these companies survive long term: taking gross advantage of government tax money. Go research TransDigm Group; they have a bunch of shell companies to obfuscate the price of the aircraft parts they make, and also create the perception of multiple bids for government contracts, allowing them to jack up the price of $100 parts to $3000 to sell to the government.

    In 7 years the stock price has gone from 30 dollars to 300 dollars without the P/E getting out of hand, ie the price rise is justified with revenue and is not a function of shareholder mania. In comparison during that same time Coca-Cola went from 30 dollars to 46 dollars. Now you know which company to buy after Trump crashes the economy.

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