New Problem in Puerto Rico: Energy Firm Puts Its Foot Down

Whitefish Energy says it won't fulfill remainder of work unless it gets the $83M it's owed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 21, 2017 9:17 AM CST
Energy Firm to Puerto Rico: No More Work Till We Get $83M
In this Oct. 15, 2017, file photo, Whitefish Energy workers restore power lines damaged by Hurricane Maria in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico.   (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)

The Montana energy company that set up a controversial, since-canceled contract to help restore Puerto Rico's power after Hurricane Maria had agreed to work through Nov. 30 before heading out. But now it's stopping work altogether, claiming the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority owes it upward of $83 million, ABC News and the AP report. "We stopped because … lack of payment with (Prepa) has gotten beyond its maximum threshold and what we can sustain as a business," Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski tells CNN. But Prepa, whose director resigned Friday over the contract scandal, says it's not paying until it can resolve an issue between Whitefish and an unnamed Whitefish subcontractor. Prepa claims it received "a communication" from the subcontractor "requesting the stoppage of any payment" to Whitefish over non-payment to the subcontractor.

Only about half of the island's power grid is back online two months after the hurricane, though CNN notes that doesn't mean half of the island's customers are with power. The AP reports that San Juan and nearby areas keep getting hit with blackouts. "It may have not been the best business decision coming to work for a bankrupt island," Techmanski tells CNN, adding that he thought FEMA would help ensure his firm would get paid. He says he hopes the payment can be worked out so that Whitefish can wrap up its work there through the end of November. A Prepa spokesman tells the AP negotiations are now taking place to make sure that happens. Meanwhile, the original Whitefish contract is undergoing both local and federal audits to find out how it came to pass in the first place. (More Puerto Rico stories.)

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