White House denies role in Whitefish contract

White House denies role in Whitefish contract

White House denies role in Whitefish contract

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló called for an immediate cancellation of a tiny Montana firm's $300 million contract to restore power to the storm-hit US territory, his office confirmed Sunday.

Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zinke in the Oval Office meeting that he had nothing to do with the contract awarded to Whitefish Energy Holdings, a firm that had two employees before the deal.

Whitefish and the island's public utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, struck an agreement on September 26, six days after Maria swept through, without a formal bidding process.

"This is a contract that was determined by local authorities", she said, asserting that the federal government "has nothing to do" with the contract.

Rossello referred to the Whitefish Energy contract as a "distraction" after questions were raised about the company's capability to handle the restoration project.

More than a month after Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean, over 70 percent of the US island territory still has no electricity.

Critics have queried why Puerto Rican authorities did not seek aid from other public utility companies - as is customary during disasters.

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In defense of the contract with Whitefish, Puerto Rico officials have said the company was willing to work without a down payment, which made it more attractive to the debt-ridden island.

News reports have revealed that Zinke's son worked a summer construction job for Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski.

The contract for the tiny company based in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana, has drawn a bipartisan chorus of criticism from Capitol Hill.

The Trump administration denied Friday (Oct. 27) that political connections had anything to do with restoring electrical connections in Puerto Rico, and Zinke said Friday he had nothing to do with the contract. Rosselló added that the contract "appeared to comply 100% with FEMA regulations".

The White House and FEMA, the federal disaster management agency, said on Friday they had nothing to do with hiring Whitefish Energy to restore power in the USA commonwealth.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, has vowed to hold a hearing on the contract.

But last week Rosselló asked the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general to review the contracting process, even while seeming to defend Whitefish for "providing important recovery services to PREPA in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which completely destroyed the Island's electrical grid system".

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