Federal Officials Distance Themselves From Whitefish Energy Contract

Oct 27, 2017

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and other federal officials are distancing themselves from a multi-million dollar contract between a small Montana company and Puerto Rico’s electric utility.

In a statement released Friday, Zinke said he had “nothing to do” with the controversial $300 million dollar contract awarded to Whitefish Energy for power restoration work in Puerto Rico.

However, Zinke say he was contacted by Whitefish Energy after the company was initially awarded that contract in September.

Ken Luce, a spokesperson for Whitefish Energy, says Whitefish asked Zinke for help connecting with another utility company, but the question was misdirected.

Statement by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

“It was an Energy question, not an Interior question," Luce says. "There was nothing he could do about it."

Zinke says he didn’t take action, and the company says it did not take that request to the Department of Energy. Luce says this was the only time Whitefish Energy contacted Zinke. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also said today it did not approve the $300 million contract.

In a statement, FEMA says it has “significant concerns” about the contract and that the agency is currently in talks with the Puerto Rican utility and its legal counsel to get more information about the contract and how the deal was made. In a leaked copy of the contract, the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, stated that FEMA did review and approve of the contract.

FEMA also says it has not confirmed if the contract prices are reasonable. The contract outlines wages of at least $300 an hour for site supervisors, and more for subcontractors.

Two House committees have written letters to PREPA and Whitefish Energy requesting more information. Puerto Rico's Governor, Ricardo Rossello has requested an audit.