Tiny Whitefish Energy spars with San Juan's mayor amid growing scrutiny of huge no-bid Puerto Rico contract

Workers repair a power line in Puerto Rico
(Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Puerto Rico's federal financial oversight board is taking steps to install an emergency manager at the territory's public power utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), amid criticism of PREPA's decision to award a $300 million no-bid contract to a two-employee company with no office headquartered in Whitefish, Montana — the tiny hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan ZInke — primarily bankrolled by a significant donor to President Trump. A month after Hurricane Maria ripped up Puerto Rico, the power situation is still bad and getting worse, though Whitefish Energy has at least 300 workers on the island — at a cost to Puerto Rico of $330 an hour for supervisors and $277.88 an hour for each "journeyman lineman."

PREPA's hiring of Whitefish has drawn bipartisan scrutiny in Congress, threat of a possible audit from Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, and widespread criticism, including from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who said Tuesday that the contract should be "voided right away." Whitefish responded to Cruz's comments, saying in a statement that her comments were "misplaced" and "demoralizing" to workers. Cruz took to Twitter to wonder why Whitefish had singled out her criticism for response, and Whitefish responded:

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"Do you want us to send them back or keep working?" A Twitter user named Matt LaCasse had a follow-up question for Whitefish: "Why are you arguing with someone on Twitter rather than, you know, RESTORING POWER TO THE ISLAND?" Presumably, all in good time — contract willing.

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