Maria Cantwell asks GAO to investigate Montana firm’s $300 million contract to fix Puerto Rico’s grid – Washington Examiner
The top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is calling for a federal probe into a $300 million contract given to the Montana-based Whitefish Energy firm to help repair Puerto Rico’s smashed electricity grid.
“Today I am calling on the Government Accountability Office to investigate the circumstances surrounding the multi-million dollar contract awarded to Whitefish Energy — a brand new company with two employees,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state on Tuesday.
Cantwell’s committee has direct oversight over the Interior Department. There is some suspicion that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke may have had a hand in the company winning the contract because it is based in his hometown.
Zinke said he had nothing to do with the contract being awarded by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.
The GAO is a federal watchdog agency that looks into concerns when requested to do so by members of Congress. Cantwell’s request is the first concrete step that lawmakers have said they would take to investigate the contract award after it was reported late Monday.
Senior members from both parties on the House Natural Resources Committee said Tuesday that they are looking into the matter, as well.
“Congress needs to understand why the Whitefish contract was awarded and whether other, more cost-effective options were available,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the top Democrat on the committee. “We also need to know why the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, and public-sector utilities failed in Puerto Rico to conduct the disaster response planning they carried out ahead of other disasters this year.”
Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, also will be looking into the contract, his office said.
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