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41 Days Later, Puerto Rico Is Still Without Electricity

41 Days Later, Puerto Rico Is Still Without Electricity

DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts

Most Puerto Ricans will be without electricity for the foreseeable future after a controversial contract to rebuild the island’s power grid was cancelled.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) on Sunday cancelled a $300 million contract to rebuild the grid after officials discovered that the contractor, Whitefish Energy, lacked the resources to do the job. It was hoped that Whitefish would quickly get the power grid back up and running. But now PREPA is back to square one.

It has been more than a month – 41 days exactly — since Hurricane Maria hit the island on Sept. 20.

“Some stores, medical centers, restaurants and a fortunate few private residences are running on generators, but most of the island’s 3.4 million people are plunged into darkness after sunset,” The New York Times reported.

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PREPA is running at only 30 percent capacity, but it isn’t known how many of the island’s citizens are without power. Estimates range as high as 80 percent or more. The contract was hurriedly signed as Maria was heading toward the island.

“Nestled down a long gravel driveway in Whitefish is a one-story wooden house that is the home of Whitefish Energy,” CBS News reported from the small town of Whitefish, Mont. on Friday. “This tiny energy company has only two full-time employees. … Whitefish has never worked on a project of this size.”

A major critic of Whitefish is journalist Ken Klippenstein, who obtained a copy of the contract and noted a number of unusual provisions, CNBC reported. One clause actually barred the government from auditing Whitefish.

Also not amused by the contract was President Trump, who was drawn into the mess because Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s home is Whitefish, Mont. CNBC reported that Zinke’s son had a summer job working for Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski.

“I had absolutely nothing to do with Whitefish Energy receiving a contract in Puerto Rico. I welcome all investigations into the allegations,” Zinke tweeted on Friday.

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