Puerto Rico's power authority cancels controversial contract with Montana company

Power lines in Puerto Rico.
(Image credit: RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images)

The governor of Puerto Rico announced Sunday that at his request, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority's board will cancel a controversial $300 million contract awarded to Whitefish Energy Holdings, a tiny company from Montana hired to rebuild power lines on the island following two destructive hurricanes.

The deal had drawn widespread scrutiny in part because Whitefish Energy secured the contract while only having two full-time employees, and it's located in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's tiny hometown; Zinke's son worked at the company last summer. Zinke has denied playing any part in the contract, and Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló said while he has not found anything improper about the deal, it has become "a distraction," adding, "I am making this determination because it is in the best interest of the people of Puerto Rico."

Thousands of power poles and lines came down during Hurricanes Maria and Irma, and much of the island remains without electricity. The power authority's chief executive, Ricardo Ramos, said Whitefish was awarded the contract because they did not ask for a large payment to get the project going, unlike the other companies that put in bids. Whitefish said in a statement Sunday it was "very disappointed" by the cancellation, and has finished work on two major transmission lines.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for TheWeek.com. Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.