Puerto Rico’s power company on Sunday pulled out of a $300 million contract with utility provider Whitefish Energy Holdings to help rebuild a portion of the island’s decimated electrical grid in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Ricardo Ramos, head of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority PREPA, made the decision just hours after Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello encouraged the deal be dissolved, the Associated Press reported. Whitefish Energy is located in the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and the plan has been criticized because it was arranged outside of a competitive bidding process.
On Friday, officials with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency also questioned how the small Montana company, which had only two full-time employees when the deal was made earlier this month, had secured the contract. Federal officials are investigated the details of the contract.
“It’s an enormous distraction,” Ramos said of the deal. “This was negatively impacting the work we’re already doing.”
Chris Chiames, a spokesperson for Whitefish, told the AP that the company sent 350 workers to the island with more on the way.
“We will certainly finish any work that (the power company) wants us to complete and stand by our commitments,” he told the AP.
Much of Puerto Rico remains without power more than a month after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island, where 3.4 million American citizens reside. At least 70 percent of Puerto Rican homes and business remain without power.