Whitefish Energy Holdings was awarded the no-bid contract by the beleaguered Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority on September 26, and the deal has drawn loud criticism since its specifics have trickled out. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, senior Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the Whitefish contract "raises every red flag in the book".
Whitefish Energy Holdings workers stand on towers to restore lines damaged by Hurricane Maria in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico on October 15.
The list of players responsible for getting the lights on is long: The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is responsible for restoring an area after a disaster hits; the Army Corps of Engineers, which does the on-the-ground work of restoring power plants and distribution; Puerto Rico's state and local governments; and PREPA and a handful of private power companies hired by PREPA to do fix work.
First reported by Daily Beast contributor Ken Klippenstein, the contract awarded to Whitefish Energy seems to heavily favor the company.
The $300 million contract between Puerto Rico's power utility and the Montana-based energy firm has been criticized in recent days. The island awarded the contract without a normal public bidding process that would have allowed other companies to compete for the work. And Whitefish didn't do itself any favors by engaging in a Twitter feud with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello held a press conference asking Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to cancel its deal with Whitefish Energy Holdings and coordinate with utility companies in Florida and NY.
Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello defended the deal in a statement, though he said his administration would review PREPA's contracting practices. Whitefish has said the company has expertise in mountainous areas, and arrived in Puerto Rico before other companies.
Though Zinke and Techmanski acknowledge knowing one another, the Interior Department and Techmanski both told the Washington Post the secretary played no role in Whitefish securing the contract.
"The first I heard of the Whitefish Energy contract was through the news", he said.
An official with Ricardo Rosselló's office told the BBC that the governor would ask the Puerto Rican authorities to scrap the deal. "If there is wrongdoing, in this process or in any process, there will be hell to pay".