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Puerto Rico governor demands cancelation of Whitefish power contract

Puerto Rico governor demands cancelation of Whitefish power contract

Puerto Rico's Gov. Ricardo Rossello on Sunday called for the termination of a $300 million contract to fix Puerto Rico's hurricane-damaged electricity infrastructure awarded to a tiny Montana utility company financed by major donors to President Donald Trump.

The announcement by Gov. Ricardo Rossello comes as federal legislators seek to investigate the contract awarded to the small company from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown.

He also said he had requested an investigation into how the contract between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and Whitefish was decided so quickly.

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PREPA tapped Whitefish to restore electric infrastructure in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which knocked out 80 percent of the USA territory's transmission lines. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, senior Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the Whitefish contract "raises every red flag in the book".

Whitefish is only two years old and had few employees before Hurricane Maria hit.

The $300 million contract between Puerto Rico's power utility and the Montana-based energy firm has been criticized in recent days.

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"Much of the controversy that has surrounded the contract has focused on the high rates Whitefish is charging for labor". White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zinke "just for clarification" purposes. "This was something exclusively determined by the Puerto Rican government". Zinke, a former Montana congressman, knows Techmanski, and Zinke's son also had a summer job at a Whitefish construction site. FEMA on Friday said that it had not approved the Whitefish Energy agreement.

"FEMA is presently engaged with PREPA and its legal counsel to obtain information about the contract and contracting process, including how the contract was procured and how PREPA determined the contract prices were reasonable", it said.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a New York Democrat born on the island, who has been active in pushing for resources for Puerto Rico's recovery, said Zamot's appointment is "completely appropriate" because PREPA chose to forgo mutual aid agreements with other power authorities - a type of voluntary partnership that allows for companies to easily share resources to get power up and running as quickly as possible after a disaster - and hire Whitefish.

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"The governor also did not say how the utility would disentangle itself from the contract with Whitefish Energy".