FEMA said “Who?”

Puerto Rico is telling Whitefish it’s all over between them.

The Puerto Rico electric power company said Sunday that it is canceling a controversial $300 million contract it had signed with a small Montana-based company and tasked with a central role in repairing the territory’s hurricane-ravaged electric grid.

The move came after Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said the contract was a distraction and should be canceled after critics in the electric power industry, Congress and the Federal Emergency Management Agency raised questions about whether the company, Whitefish Energy, was well equipped to respond to the hurricane damage.

And whether it got the contract because of cronyism, or worse.

Whitefish Energy, which had just two employees the day Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, now has about 325 people working on restringing transmission lines, clearing debris and erecting fallen poles. It has been working under contract with PREPA.

Whitefish, Mont[ana] is the home of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, although the company said he played no role in securing the business. One of Zinke’s sons worked for Whitefish Energy over the summer.

But it’s sheer coincidence that Whitefish Energy with its two employees got the contract. Ok…..

The company’s chief executive, Andrew Techmanski, has extensive experience in the electric transmission business, but the company has focused mostly on unsuccessfully trying to set up a plant to manufacture transformers. It has also received small grants from the Energy Department. It is backed by HBC Investments’ partners fund, a Dallas-based private equity firm whose members have a long record of financial support for the Republican Party.

But they were the obvious choice for the job because…erm………

Many people in the utility business had said that PREPA would have been better off tapping into the well-established networks of utilities that have formed mutual aid groups expressly for the purpose of emergency relief.

In addition, many in the industry have suggested that Whitefish Energy’s pay scales — as high as $462 an hour — were much higher than is typical even in an emergency such as the one facing Puerto Rico. The contract rates included costs, administrative expenses and profits for Whitefish.

While the conditions in Puerto Rico are difficult and lineman work is dangerous, there are companies and agencies seeking to do the work for substantially less, according to people familiar with figures from four companies from the mainland.

The Army Corps is doing essentially the same work as Whitefish in Puerto Rico and has been offering to pay as much as $195.04 an hour for a journeyman lineman and $230.32 an hour for a general foreman, according to a document provided to The Post.

The average rate for a lineman who helped restore electric power to Florida residents after Hurricane Irma hit there was $165 per hour — and that included some high-priced crews from the Northeast. Five local firms charged $116 per hour, said a source familiar with the rates.

But Whitefish was a better choice because…errrm………

The Whitefish Energy contract also had a clause that said that the pay rates and other terms of the agreement could not be audited or reviewed by FEMA, the commonwealth, the comptroller general or PREPA.

Fun clause! And not at all hinky.

The contract also required that PREPA, before signing, had confirmed that FEMA had reviewed and approved the agreement to ensure that money spent would “qualify for funding from FEMA.”

FEMA said Friday that it had not approved the Whitefish Energy agreement.


“Based on initial review and information from Prepa, FEMA has significant concerns with how Prepa procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable,” the agency said in a statement.

See? All totally legit and above board.

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