Congressman Darren Soto authored a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior urging for an investigation into the $300 million contract awarded to Montana firm Whitefish Energy to repair Puerto Rico’s electrical infrastructure. The letter was supported by seven additional Members of Congress, calling into question Whitefish’s inexperience and ties to the Trump Administration.
“It is concerning that the arduous task of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s energy grid post Hurricane Maria – the biggest infrastructural rebuild in the United States since Hurricane Katrina – is being contracted to a small, inexperienced firm with ties to the Trump Administration,” stated Rep. Darren Soto.
In the letter addressed to the Department’s Deputy Inspector General, Members of Congress expressed their concern with how the contract was awarded, stating that it “emerged from direct discussions between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and Whitefish, rather than through the traditional formal bidding process that is meant to prevent fraud, favoritism, and bias in the procurement of restoration contracts.”
Prior to being awarded the PREPA contract, Whitefish had only been awarded two Department of Energy contracts, which were on a much smaller scale than the one awarded for Puerto Rico. The first contract of $172,000 was for a three-mile electrical line replacement and the second contract of $1.3 million was to upgrade a 4.8-mile transmission line, both projects in Arizona. Members conclude that a normal bidding process would have ensured more reliable and experienced contractors.
In addition to Rep. Soto, the letter was signed by Representatives Robert Brady (PA-01), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Ted Lieu (CA-33), James P. McGovern (MA-02), and José Serrano (NY-15).