Lawyers for Puerto Rico's electric utility warned officials against signing an expanded fix contract worth $300 million with Whitefish Energy Holdings, documents obtained by lawmakers show.
Industry experts are saying the charges are far above the norm even for emergency work and nearly 17 times the average salary of their counterparts in Puerto Rico.
Lakeland Electric linemen helping rebuild the power grid in Puerto Rico are being paid between $50 and $60 an hour, depending on experience. Whitefish, whose contract with Puerto Rico's state-run power company was prematurely canceled after it faced criticism over certain details in the contract, is charging Puerto Rico $319 per hour of power line work. They have more questions about the contract, but they initially believed it complied with regulations. An employee with PREPA, who had a satellite phone and phone number called Whitefish following the hurricane, according to a report in September from E&E News. Over 80 percent of Puerto Rico was without power after the power line failure. As part of this contract revision, PREPA required Whitefish to develop one rate for each labor category that would apply to all subcontractors (from APPA utilities to union shops).
The records also show that PREPA is likely to continue paying Whitefish millions of dollars in the coming weeks despite saying recently that it would cut off the contract as soon as possible. However, according to the contract, Whitefish Energy is billing PREPA $319 an hour for linemen.
"We have a lot of work to do when it comes to grant-monitoring at all levels of government", Brock Long, a FEMA director, said at a congressional testimony earlier this year. In this first contract, costs such as fuel, housing, food/water, shipping/freight, etc. were to be passed through at cost, plus 30 percent to cover Whitefish's overhead and other expenses. Hurricane Maria left the 3.4 million people who live on the US territory without power, and weeks later, thousands still don't have electricity. "I just had lunch with my wife, and it cost me $14". Other linemen are making $42 an hour plus overtime and some are earning up to $100 of double time. Industry pushes back on Perry grid plan GOP chairman has "more questions" about Puerto Rico's Whitefish Energy contract The SECURE American Energy Act only endangers public lands MORE (R-Utah), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said the Whitefish documents demonstrate deep-seated problems. "Let's say you put an overage on it, because it's a special emergency circumstance". Much of the funding went to linemen working 16 hours per day at an hourly rate of $300 per person.
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