House Energy Cmte. Wants Info On Whitefish’s Contract In Puerto Rico

Ramon Espinosa/AP

Lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including the committee’s chair and ranking member, wrote to Whitefish Energy Holdings on Thursday seeking more information on the tiny company’s mysterious contract with Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).

Beginning in mid-October, a series of reports began raising questions about Whitefish, specifically, how it ended up with the $300 million contract to restore power to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria destroyed much of the island’s power grid on Sept. 20.

The company is two years old and has two full time employees, but it is financed by major Trump donors, and its CEO knows Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who lives in Whitefish, Montana, where the company is based.

“We understand Whitefish is focused on the critical task of restoring power for the population of Puerto Rico,” the committee said in a letter to Whitefish Energy. “In light of the questions that have been raised about your company’s involvement in recovery efforts, however, it is important to develop a clear understanding of the facts.”

The letter requested, by Nov. 9, copies of Whitefish’s contracts with Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, a list of entities subcontracting with the company in Puerto Rico, and a map detailing current and future work in Puerto Rico by Whitefish and its subcontractors and subsidiaries.

The Washington Post reported on Oct. 23 that Whitefish was paying its subcontractors large sums for their work on the island — $462 per hour for a supervisor and $319.04 for a lineman — in addition to accommodation and lodging fees.

The company’s CEO told CNN three days earlier that Whitefish had won the contract in Puerto Rico with PREPA after “[w]e just called each other.” On Thursday, Whitefish issued an apology to the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, after the company threatened to withdraw its workers from the city following Cruz’s demands for more transparency about the contact.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s letter’s signatories aren’t the only lawmakers interested in Whitefish’s deal. On Wednesday afternoon, BuzzFeed reported that Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) had requested the Government Accountability Office look into the deal.

Read the letter from members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee below. It was signed by Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Ranking Member Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Energy Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO).