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Cash crunch slowed Puerto Rico's appeal for grid help, CEO says

Cash crunch slowed Puerto Rico's appeal for grid help, CEO says”

Slightly more than a month after the storm, some 80% of customers still lack power.

Whitefish then subcontracted Jacksonville Electric Authority and Kissimmee Utility Authority to work with it on transmission system restoration.

Besides monetary connections, Whitefish Energy also has direct political connections with some of Trump's cabinet secretaries. But some people are wondering why PREPA would sign the $300 million contract, the largest issued yet, with a company that only had two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria hit the island.

Ramos' comments raise the question of why a rescue plan for Puerto Rico's bankrupt electric company, lying dead center in the Florida Straits hurricane alley, was apparently not on the planning docket of the mainland US electric power industry, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or Congress.

"Congress needs to understand why the Whitefish contract was awarded and whether other, more cost-effective options were available", said Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva from Arizona, in a statement Tuesday.

PREPA Executive Director Ricardo Ramos said Tuesday he ruled out APPA assistance because it would have required the agency, which is now bankrupt, to handle logistics for crew lodging and food. The other unnamed contender wanted a $25 million down payment for the work, Ramos said.

Techmanski said they are sending over 400 employees to the island, some of them are from the Flathead but many of them are from utility companies all over. "The other company did not ask for a guarantee of payment".

But some on Capitol Hill are concerned that Whitefish may have stood out for another reason.

Zinke knows Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanskis "because they both live in a small town where everyone knows everyone", the statement said.

In addition to Techmanski's relationship with Zinke, Joe Colonnetta, partner at Whitefish and founder of HBC Investments, the private-equity firm that finances the energy company, is a significant power player in Republican politics, according to the Beast.

Whitefish was one of two companies on the government's shortlist, Ramos said.

"The process was started because of the emergency situation, in order to be able to have brigades working here in Puerto Rico".

Zinke's office acknowledged they received an email from Techmanski, but said no one at the agency took any further action. "This is one of many things the committee is taking a close look at as it continues to work with the resident commissioner, governor's office and oversight board to ensure Puerto Rico's recovery is robust, effective and sustained", said Parish Braden, a spokesman for Bishop.

Techmanski, who has described the firm as specializing in "difficult and mountainous terrain projects", has downplayed any ties to the administration.

"It is reprehensible that shameless profiteering is going on literally on the back of the devastated people of Puerto Rico", Vega-Ramos said to The Daily Beast. "We called each other".

The island's power authority had the choice between the for-profit small company or to activate its "mutual aid", which has a long proven track record of helping USA utility companies during natural disasters.

The bankrupt utility, which is $9 billion in debt, could have requested aid after Maria through the American Public Power Association, a network that provides help to other utilities during widespread power outages. That's what Texas and Florida did after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. PREPA also lost contact with APPA immediately following the hurricane, he said, which was a factor in the decision not to request assistance under the APPA mutual aid program.

SIEGEL: Such a big contract for such a small outfit has - you know, it seems quite unusual.

Some maintain portions of Puerto Rico could be powerless for two years.



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