The FBI is investigating Whitefish Energy's contract to rebuild Puerto Rico's grid


The FBI is investigating Whitefish Energy's contract to rebuild Puerto Rico's grid

Some stores, restaurants, medical centres, and a few private residences are running on generators but most of the island - 70 percent, are still without electrical power, more than a month after Hurricane Maria struck.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating a $300 million contract that Puerto Rico's government power company awarded to a USA -based energy startup, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

"In light of the information that has come about, with regards to the contracting of Whitefish Energy and in the interest of protecting our public interest", the governor said. Whitefish was a two-year-old company that only had two full-time employees when PREPA awarded them the contract.

The current work by Whitefish teams will not be interrupted by the contract cancellation but the cancellation would delay pending work for up to 12 weeks if no alternatives are found.

More troubles for Puerto Rico?

"Even before Hurricane Maria struck, Puerto Rico's human rights were already being massively undermined by the economic and financial crisis and austerity policies, affecting the rights to health, food, education, housing, water and social security", Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, a United Nations envoy on debt and human rights, said in an emailed statement.

The move came after Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said the contract was a distraction and should be canceled after critics in the electric power industry, Congress and the Federal Emergency Management Agency raised questions about whether the company, Whitefish Energy, was well equipped to respond to the hurricane damage.

Whitefish is based in Whitefish, Montana, the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has denied any participation in the company's contract with PREPA.

The contract noted that, even without securing "approvals or funding from FEMA or some other source", PREPA would still owe Whitefish for its work.

According to Whitefish, 350 workers have been brought to the island and the company still plans to have 500 total workers this week.

The White House had no comment Sunday.

Whitefish now has more than 350 workers and 2,500 tons worth of equipment in Puerto Rico reconstructing the badly damaged grid. The NYT reports that Governor Rosselló has agreed with the governors of NY and Florida to send utility crews to aid in the recovery effort going forward.

The cancellation ends a long saga in the tormented history of Puerto Rico's recovery effort. Chiames, the Whitefish spokesman, has said that Colonnetta's political donations were "irrelevant" and that the company would cooperate with any federal authorities.



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