Whitefish charged Puerto Rico unusually high $300 per hour for workers

Lester Mason
November 14, 2017

They show that Whitefish, which is also under investigation by the FBI, charged PREPA around two times what it paid subcontractors in hourly rates. Six employees from Kissimmee are earning $42 an hour, senior linemen from Lakeland are earning $63 an hour, and 40 linemen from Jacksonville are earning up to $100 an hour, with varying overtime depending on seniority and other stipulations, like union contracts and job titles.

Whitefish, for its part, maintains that the price was appropriate and needed to attract the workers for such a risky operation - hurricanes Irma and Maria from September ravaged the entire island and downed Puerto Rico's power lines.

Last month, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority canceled the Whitefish contract after urging by the territory's governor. Documents indicate that Whitefish would still keep one dollar of every two it billed Prepa, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. "Simply looking at the rate differential does not take into account Whitefish's overhead costs", a spokesperson for the company told the Times. PREPA compared Whitefish Energy's rates to the rates in other proposals PREPA received and determined that Whitefish Energy's rates were competitive with those other rates. This charge was also separate from what Prepa was being charged for food and lodging per employee.

The Times spoke to six electrical workers from Kissimmee, Fla., who are now working on bringing electricity back to the island. Reasons for criticism were varied. Hurricane Maria left the 3.4 million people who live on the USA territory without power, and weeks later, thousands still don't have electricity.

There were no bids that competed with Whitefish, a small company whose office is in the hometown of Energy Secretary Ryan Zinke. The Department of the Interior and the company's chief executive both denied that anything inappropriate in relation to the contract had occurred.

On Thursday, a power outage related to infrastructure reportedly worked on by Whitefish plunged much of the island back into darkness. The deal is now being investigated by at least four congressional committees, the Department of Homeland Security's inspector-general, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Almost 500 more people died in Puerto Rico this September than a year earlier, according to regional authorities, though officials refused to blame those deaths to Maria. According to CNN, repairs to the damaged line began later the same day.

Power company AEE Generation said Sunday that 47.8% was restored.

This is the largest blackout in USA history, and efforts to restore electricity provision to the Puerto Rican population were not helped by a major power line failure last Thursday, which reduced capacity to 18%.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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