Whitefish Resumes Restoring Power to Puerto Rico After PaymentBy
Company earlier halted work citing unpaid $83 million bill
Puerto Rico power capacity at 50% after hurricane repairs
Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC said it resumed repairing Puerto Rico’s storm-ravaged electric grid after receiving a payment from the territory’s bankrupt utility.
The company, which saw its no-bid $300 million contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority canceled last month amid criticism, said Monday it was suspending work because it was owed $83 million. Under the terms of the canceled deal, Whitefish was supposed to continue work until Nov. 30.
The tiny Montana-based company is under investigation after securing a sole-source contract with the PREPA to restore power on the island, which lost 80 percent of its electric grid after a pair of hurricanes in September.
“PREPA released a payment to Whitefish Energy that was enough to show PREPA’s good faith intent to pay Whitefish Energy and its subcontractors for services rendered," the company said in a statement on Thursday. Chris Chiames, a Whitefish spokesman, declined to answer a question about the size of the payment. A spokesman for PREPA didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
A Nov. 19 letter from Whitefish to the bankrupt utility, which was obtained by Bloomberg News, demands payment for work it has performed -- and also more than $39 million "for anticipated demobilization costs."
The company had two full-time employees and little experience prior to winning the PREPA contract. Whitefish is based in the tiny hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose son worked for the company. Both Zinke and Whitefish Energy say the cabinet secretary played no role in the selection of Whitefish.
About 50 percent of the island’s power capacity has been restored, according to the Energy Department.