Puerto Rico Suffers Political Turmoil Following Hurricane
Puerto Rico is still largely without power as the latest deal to help repair the island’s infrastructure was voided after it came to light that a small company with only two permanent employees was granted a $300.0-million contract. The company is based in the hometown of U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, which means U.S. political turmoil is once more impeding Puerto Rico’s recovery process.
Puerto Rico remains in a state of devastation after being hit by Hurricane Maria in September, with large swaths of the U.S. territory still lacking access to electricity and potable water.
Christian Sobrino, who is Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello’s representative on the federal board that oversees the territory’s finances, asked the American Public Power Association and New York’s electric utility for help on Tuesday. Sobrino also said that the Puerto Rico government would request help from other states’ electricity systems as well, including those in Florida.
This all comes in the wake of the recent cancellation of the Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC contract that was signed between the power company and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. The deal became increasingly contentious when it was revealed that, at the time of the signing of the contract, Whitefish was a very small company, with only a couple of full-time employees.
When it later came to light that Zinke is from the same small Montana town where the company is based, questions were levied at the Secretary of the Interior as to the legitimacy of this deal. Finally, after much criticism, the deal was canceled last week.
Puerto Rico’s electricity grid was so heavily damaged by the storm that only about a third of the grid has been restored so far. Meanwhile, political turmoil, like the debate over the now-canceled Whitefish deal, continues to derail the recovery and rebuilding process.
President Donald Trump has engaged in a Twitter clash with several Puerto Rican politicians over the state of the recovery and the federal attention being paid to the island. Trump received backlash when he tweeted several times about the NFL protests before mentioning the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico.
“Puerto Rico Asks for Help With Power Grid After Moving to End Contentious Deal,” Bloomberg, October 31, 2017.