Friday, 17 November, 2017

Two energy companies investigated for contracts with Puerto Rico

Whitefish Is Charging Puerto Rico Hundreds Of Dollars More Per Hour Than Its Power Line Workers Make Mario Tama  Getty Images News  Getty Images Whitefish Is Charging Puerto Rico Hundreds Of Dollars More Per Hour Than Its Power Line Workers Make Mario Tama Getty Images News Getty Images
Bennie Garza | 14 November, 2017, 20:06

Whitefish Energy Holdings facing more controversy, after a report by the New York Times finds the company was charged the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority more than $300 but only paying lineman a fraction of that.

"We have to pay a premium to entice the labor to come to Puerto Rico to work", Chiames claimed, but declined to explain the average of $256 that was disappearing between PREPA's payouts and the pockets of Whitefish's linemen.

After the contract was signed, PREPA asked Whitefish to change the rate structure of the contract to make it FEMA-compliant, meaning that there would be fixed rates for virtually everything (including lodging, food, fuel, etc.) rather than cost-plus. A spokesman for Whitefish, Chris Chiames, defended the costs, saying that "simply looking at the rate differential does not take into account Whitefish's overhead costs", which were built into the rate. According to the latest official figures, capacity is now back up to nearly 48%, after the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) fixed it. An employee with PREPA, who had a satellite phone and phone number called Whitefish following the hurricane, according to a report in September from E&E News. Industry pushes back on Perry grid plan GOP chairman has "more questions" about Puerto Rico's Whitefish Energy contract The SECURE American Energy Act only endangers public lands MORE (R-Utah), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said the Whitefish documents demonstrate deep-seated problems. Documents indicate that Whitefish would still keep one dollar of every two it billed Prepa, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. PREPA compared Whitefish Energy's rates to the rates in other proposals PREPA received and determined that Whitefish Energy's rates were competitive with those other rates. Linemen from Lakeland were paid $63 an hour, while workers from Jacksonville earned up to $100 in double time. However, Whitefish will continue to work on the island until the end of this month.

There were no bids that competed with Whitefish, a small company whose office is in the hometown of Energy Secretary Ryan Zinke. Zinke and the company's chief executive both hail from the same Montana town, and Zinke's son worked for Whitefish last summer, according to the Times.

On Thursday, a power outage related to infrastructure reportedly worked on by Whitefish plunged much of the island back into darkness.

Reports have said that FBI is investigating the deal, though the New York Times reported details of its arrangement for the first time on Sunday night. Eight weeks later, almost half the island remains without power. Over 80 percent of Puerto Rico was without power after the power line failure.

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