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Small utilities company linked to Trump supporter gets $300M contract to restore power to Puerto Rico

Many people are puzzled by the decision to make the small company in charge of rebuilding Puerto Rico's power grid.
Hurricane Maria damage
Buildings damaged by Hurricane Maria are seen in Lares, Puerto Rico. Credit: Reuters

A small utilities construction company called Whitefish Energy will receive a $300 million to restore the power grid in Puerto Rico that was destroyed by Hurricane Maria. The small company is from Montana is financed by a private equity firm run by a man who has donated thousands of dollars to President Trump’s campaign.

According to the Washington Post, Whitefish Energy only had two full-time employees at the time Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September, leaving many people questioning why this company was chosen to restore power to an island with approximately 3.4 million residents. Whitefish now claims it now has 280 workers in the area.

In most cases, larger and better-equipped utility companies are responsible for rebuilding and restoring energy grids destroyed or damaged by natural disasters.

The Daily Beast reported that the Federal Elections Commission shows HBC Investments, the private equity firm that finances Whitefish Energy was founded by Joe Colonnetta, a Dallas based investor. Public documents show Colonnetta contributed thousands of dollars to Trump-related campaigns including 15,000 to “Trump Victory” PAC. Colonnetta’s wife also contributed thousands of dollars the Republican National Committee.

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A full list of contributions made by Joe and Kimberly Colonnetta to the Trump campaign can be found on the Federal Election Commission website.

While it does not matter which political party a person is affiliated with or chooses to donate to, the move to make Whitefish Energy, a tiny company backed by someone who is linked to a major Trump donor is causing many people become suspicious, including Luis Vega-Ramos, a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives who believes Whitefish Energy is taking advantage of Puerto Rico.

“It is reprehensible that shameless profiteering is going on literally on the back of the devastated people of Puerto Rico," Vega-Ramos said to The Daily Beast.

Susan F. Tierney, a former senior official at the U.S. Department of Energy is baffled by the decision to bring Whitefish Energy onboard.

“The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why [the utility] would go to Whitefish,” Tierney said to the Washington Post. “I’m scratching my head wondering how it all adds up,” she added. 

The Whitefish Energy Twitter account, which appears to have been created in December 2016, has been posting short videos and documents to let the public know about the progress they are making to restore power to Puerto Rico.

Whitefish Energy Twitter updates

 
 
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