Rescuing Puerto Rico. Trump v Musk Approach

October 28, 2017

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Renewable v Fossil.

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Entrepreneur v Corruption.

Compare and Contrast.

ThinkProgress:

Five weeks after hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump’s team has only managed to restore power for a mere 26 percent of the island’s 3.5 million U.S. citizens.

Meanwhile the tiny Trump-linked energy contractor that won a $300-million no-bid contract to rebuild the grid, Whitefish Energy, is also under fire.

One businessman, however, has already started to deliver on his promise to help Puerto. Elon Musk has used Tesla’s solar panels and battery storage to turn the power back on San Juan’s Children’s Hospital — and he did it free of charge.

San Juan’s Hospital del Nino serves some 3,000 children on the island, with three dozen critically ill patients who need around-the-clock care.

In a viral Instagram post, Musk explained, “Hospital del Niño (Children’s Hospital) is the first of many solar+battery Tesla projects going live in Puerto Rico. Glad to help support the recovery. Congrats to the Tesla team for working 24/7 to make this happen as fast as possible.”

whitefish-energy

CBS News:

The Trump administration denied Friday that political connections had anything to do with restoring electrical connections in Puerto Rico.

A contract worth $300 million was awarded to a tiny company called Whitefish Energy in Whitefish, Montana, hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Zinke said Friday he had nothing to do with the contract.

CBS News correspondent David Begnaud set out Friday to find the headquarters of the company — somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

Nestled down a long gravel driveway in Whitefish is a one-story wooden house that is the home of Whitefish Energy.

whitefishHq

This tiny energy company has only two full-time employees, and surprised many when it received a $300 million no-bid contract to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. Whitefish has never worked on a project of this size.

Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski says his company has 300 workers on the ground in Puerto Rico working to fix a crippled electrical system. A month after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, 75 percent of the island is still without power.

The controversy over the no-bid contract set off a Twitter feud between the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, and the company. 

Cruz believes the deal with Whitefish Energy should be voided. She described the company as “inadequate” and asked for transparency.

Whitefish hit back by threatening to leave, writing, “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?” The company later apologized.

As CBS News was leaving headquarters for Whitefish Energy, a van showed up and blocked the street, and now the driver is speaking with the sheriff. Whitefish released a statement that said they were proud of work they are doing and will cooperate with Congress.

But the contract says the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “reviewed and approved” the agreement. On Friday, FEMA said it was “not involved” and any language that says it was “is inaccurate.”

The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general will perform an audit. But there’s one aspect of the deal that appears to be off limits.

The contract says federal and state officials “don’t have the right to review the cost and profit elements of the labor rates,” like $462 dollars per hour for a subcontractor site supervisor, and time and a half for anyone working over 40 hours.

The inspector general will look “for the presence of any inappropriate relationships.”

In addition to Whitefish’s connection to Zinke, one of the company’s top investors has given tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — and Mr. Trump.

In a statement, Zinke said he had absolutely nothing to do with the contract and he welcomes all investigations into the allegations. Late Friday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on the contract to be “terminated immediately.”

The Hill:

Zinke has been ensnared in the ongoing controversy over how Whitefish landed a $300 million contract to repair Puerto Rico’s electric grid after Hurricane Maria. The company had two employees and little experience in utility work before Maria, but still got the no-bid contract.

Zinke and Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski are both from Whitefish, Mont., a town of around 6,000. His office told The Washington Post earlier this week that the two know each other, but only because “everybody knows everybody.”

In addition, Zinke’s son briefly worked for Whitefish on a project during one summer.

“Neither myself nor anyone in my office has advocated for this company in any way,” Zinke said in the Friday statement.

He acknowledged that the company reached out to him after it obtained the contract, but he took no action on the matter. NBC Montanareported earlier this month that Whitefish sought help from Zinke in getting personnel to Puerto Rico.

Zinke’s statement came after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Whitefish topic came up at an Oval Office meeting between him and President Trump.

“He did ask Secretary Zinke, for clarification purposes, and [Zinke] reiterated once again that … the federal government, and specifically, he, had no role in that contract,” Sanders said.

Nonetheless, Democrats and environmentalists have latched onto Zinke’s potential role in the controversy.

The Sierra Club, which has previously called for Zinke to resign, has dubbed the controversy “Whitefishgate,” a reference to former President Nixon’s Watergate scandal.

“The Trump administration’s failure to answer questions today further proves that they want everyone to look the other way at this shady contract precisely because the Whitefish contract appears to be the latest example of Trump and Ryan Zinke pulling strings to enrich their friends,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement after Sanders’s news conference.

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5 Responses to “Rescuing Puerto Rico. Trump v Musk Approach”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    There are 2 paragraphs repeated.

    “Zinke has been ensnared…everybody knows everybody.”

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    Zinke and Whitefish Energy getting this contract are totally unrelated? They must think the American public is stupid. Or this is just more of the avalanche of bullshit that they are covering us with so rapidly that we have no hope of digging out in time to fight it.

    And kudos to Mars Man Musk for following through for once. Of course, the PR benefits will be huge—-let’s see if he continues to bring solar/battery systems to PR over the long term before we nominate him for sainthood.

  3. Lionel Smith Says:

    How well has Zinke has tackled the environmental issues of his home state of Montana? Has it improved any since Jared Diamond made Montana the focus of the first chapters of his excellent book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive”?

    Is Montana still a basket case of increasing inequality and land misuse with wealthy second or third homers not paying to help clean up the environment even though they and absentee corporation heads have the biggest impact. Montana the poster child for all that is wrong with society not only in the US.

    Montana, the sate where such as this can happen At least 3,000 geese killed by toxic water from former Montana copper mine. Read Diamond and weep.

    Then there is the Powder River Basin and “Big Coal” exposed by Jeff Goodell in his book by that name.

  4. schwadevivre Says:

    The contract has been withdrawn and the contracting process is under investigation by the FBI


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