A tiny energy company got in a big feud with San Juan's mayor. - Grist


Stuff that matters

something is fishy

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A tiny energy company got in a big feud with San Juan’s mayor.

That didn’t take long.

The government-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority gave $300 million last week to Whitefish Energy to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid. The Montana company had just two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria made landfall but now has hundreds of subcontractors working on the island.

Many people, including members of both parties in Congress, have questions. The fishiest things:

  1. Whitefish is unproven. The two-year-old company’s biggest prior federal contract was $1.3 million to upgrade lines in Arizona.
  2. Crazy costs. Whitefish charges around $230 per hour for linemen and $330 per hour for site supervisors, with additional fees for subcontractors.
  3. Trump connections. Whitefish is based in the 7,000-person hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who knows the CEO. Plus, it’s backed by HBC Investments, whose founder Joe Colonnetta gave tens of thousands of campaign dollars to presidential candidates Rick Perry (now energy secretary) and Donald Trump (now president — have you heard?)

Whitefish says Zinke and Colonnetta played no role in the contract. But San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz wasn’t convinced. On Wednesday, she requested that the contract be voided. Whitefish called her comments “misplaced” and threatened to pull its workers from San Juan on Twitter.

Whitefish has since apologized to Cruz and “everyone in Puerto Rico.”