The Latest: Zinke denies any connection to contract
Oct. 27, 2017
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on questions surrounding a $300 million contract for Puerto Rico's power grid (all times local):
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he "had absolutely nothing to do" with a $300 million contract awarded to a small company from his hometown to help restore Puerto Rico's power grid.
In a statement Friday, Zinke labeled as "completely baseless" any "attempts by the dishonest media or political operatives to tie me to awarding or influencing any contract" involving Whitefish Energy Holdings.
The contract for the tiny company based in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana, has drawn a bipartisan chorus of criticism from Capitol Hill. The internal watchdog at the Department of Homeland Security says it is investigating the contract and will look for any "inappropriate relationships" associated with it.
Zinke said he welcomes "any and all investigations" and encouraged the Interior Department's inspector general to review the matter.
An internal watchdog at the Department of Homeland Security says it will review the decision to award a $300 million contract to help restore Puerto Rico's power grid to a tiny Montana company in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown.
A spokesman for the department's inspector general says federal auditors will look into the selection of Whitefish Energy Holdings by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Spokesman Arlen Morales says they will look for the presence of any "inappropriate relationships" with the contract.
The Trump administration is seeking to distance itself from the issue amid a bipartisan chorus of criticism from Capitol Hill.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Zinke has personally assured President Donald Trump that he had nothing to do with the contract.
The White House says it's unaware of any federal role in the decision to award a $300 million, no-bid contract to a tiny Montana company to help restore Puerto Rico's power grid.
White House spokesman Raj Shah says the decision to award the contract to Whitefish Energy Holdings was made exclusively by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.
FEMA also says the contract decision was made by the power authority.
Congressional Democrats are calling for an investigation into how Whitefish got the contract. The 2-year-old company is based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown.
It had just two full-time employees when the storm hit on Sept. 20. It has since hired more than 300 workers.
Congressional Democrats are asking the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security to investigate a $300 million no-bid contract awarded to a tiny Montana company to help restore Puerto Rico's power grid.
Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the contract awarded to Whitefish Energy Holdings "raises every red flag in the book." The 2-year-old company, based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown, had just two full-time employees when the storm hit Sept. 20. It has since hired more than 300 workers.
Reps. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Raul Grijalva of Arizona also asked for the inspector general to investigate. DeFazio is top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, while Grijalva is the top Democrat on Natural Resources.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it had no involvement in the decision to award a $300 million contract to help restore Puerto Rico's damaged power grid. The contract went to a tiny Montana company from the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
FEMA said in a statement Friday that any language in the contract saying the agency approved the deal with Whitefish Energy Holdings is inaccurate. FEMA says it hasn't approved any reimbursement requests from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority for money to cover the ongoing repairs to the island's power grid following Hurricane Maria.
FEMA says its initial review raises significant concerns about how Whitefish got the deal and whether the contracted prices are reasonable.
Multiple congressional committees have now launched investigations into the contract.