Puerto Rico cancels $300mn energy contract with US firm


San Juan, Oct 30: Puerto Rican authorities have cancelled a $300 million contract awarded to a small US firm to rebuild part of the islands hurricane-ravaged power grid, the media reported.

The contract with Montana-based Whitefish Energy had drawn blistering criticism from members of the US Congress.

On October 27, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has a large role in determining US government reimbursements, said it had “significant concerns” about how the contract was secured, reports The Washington Post.

In response, the island nation’s Governor Ricardo Rossello said on Sunday: “As a result of the information that has been revealed and the need to protect the public interest, as governor I am asking the power authority to cancel the Whitefish contract immediately.”

About 80 per cent of people on the main island still have no electricity.

Whitefish Chief Executive Andrew Techmanski has extensive experience in the electric transmission business, but the firm has received only small contracts, records show, The Washington Post reported.

Whitefish’s contract in Puerto Rico, the largest yet issued in the troubled relief effort, was not competitively bid.

In a statement late Sunday, Whitefish said that it was “very disappointed” and that the utility’s decision “will only delay what the people of Puerto Rico want and deserve – to have the power restored quickly”.

It said that it would “finish any work that the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) wants us to complete and stand by our commitments”.

The company defended its performance, saying it had brought 350 workers, 2,500 tonnes of equipment and five helicopters to the island.

It said repairs on a major transmission line, including work in remote, inaccessible areas, would soon bring electricity to large portions of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital.

Meanwhile, Governor Rossello said that he had spoken to New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Florida Governor Rick Scott and that their involvement through mutual aid was expected to boost the number of repair brigades to 1,000 by November 8, up from about 400 now.