A tiny two-year-old company from the Montana hometown of Trump Interior secretary Ryan Zinke has been awarded a $300 million contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to restore the island’s electrical infrastructure.
On the day Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory, Whitefish Energy had only two full-time employees and held a resumé which included repairing a few miles of electrical line in Arizona, according to The Washington Post.
The company now has 280 workers on the island, a majority of whom are subcontractors.
A former senior official at the Energy Department and state regulatory agencies said it was “odd” that tiny Montana company would be chosen.
“The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why [the utility] would go to Whitefish,” Susan F. Tierney said.
“I’m scratching my head wondering how it all adds up.”
Ricardo Ramos, the executive director of PREPA, told reporters that he chose Whitefish Energy because they happened to be the first firm “available to arrive and they were the ones that first accepted terms and conditions for PREPA.”
“The doubts that have been raised about Whitefish, from my point of view, are completely unfounded,” he added.
Whitefish Energy spokesman Chris Chiames told the Post that the company is taking “personal risks and business risks working in perilous physical and financial conditions.”
“So the carping by others is unfounded, and we stand by our work and our commitment to the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.
Zinke’s office said in an email to the Post that Zinke and Whitefish Energy’s chief executive know each other.
“Everybody knows everybody” in the town, Zinke’s office said, adding that Zinke wasn’t involved in the contract.