- Whitefish Energy has halted its efforts to repair Puerto Rico's electric grid, citing $83 million it says the island has not paid for work that was completed in October.
- The controversial contract has since been terminated, but the Montana-based company had agreed to complete projects which were in progress and remain in Puerto Rico through the end of November.
- Whitefish also issued a statement yesterday saying the Florida-based utilities it contracted with to complete the work were pulling out of the region early, citing "go-forward concerns once Whitefish Energy completes its work."
It's been two months since Hurricane Maria devastated the island, and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority still has less than 50% of its generation online. While it is now utilizing mutual assistance agreements to assist with recovery, this week Whitefish Energy announced they would be stopping work on the remainder of projects it was involved with.
At issue, reports ABC News, is an unpaid bill of $83 million for work the company did in October. A statement from Puerto Rico's government said PREPA has halted payment "until the situation with the Whitefish subcontractor is clarified."
Whitefish has said that Florida-based American Public Power Association (APPA) utilities that had been working with the company had opted to "end their work in Puerto Rico." The company praised the utilities and their crews for mobilizing quickly and for the work done, but said it respected their decision.
"While we cannot speak for these utilities, we have been assured by their representatives that this is about their go-forward concerns once Whitefish Energy completes its work with PREPA and the ability of PREPA or any successor organizations to provide their crews with the necessary resources and management," the company said in a statement.
The news follows the resignation of PREPA Executive Director Ricardo Ramos last week amid the controversy surrounding the Whitefish contract.
Days after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, PREPA contracted with Whitefish to repair the grid rather than utilizing mutual aid agreements with other utilities. As terms of the $300 million contract came to light, it set off a widespread criticism. The contract has since been canceled.
The company billed $319/hour for linemen services, but paid them between $42/hour and $100/hour. The contract also included a passage ensuring that, "in no event shall [government bodies] have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements."
Ramos was not alone in stepping down in the wake of the scandal. The head of the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency, Abner Gómez, also resigned amid the slow recovery efforts.