Controversial energy firm restoring Puerto Rico’s power to oversee Lakeland Electric

In this Monday, Oct. 16, 2017 photo, power lines lay broken after the passage of Hurricane Maria in Dorado, Puerto Rico. A month after the storm rolled across the center of the island, power is still out for the vast majority of people as the work to restore hundreds of miles of transmission and distribution lines grinds on. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – The biggest power restoration project in Puerto Rico was awarded to Whitefish Energy Holdings based in Whitefish, Montana—the home of U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

The energy firm is only two-years-old and has a mere two full-time employees.  “We’ve been around for a few years and we specialize in difficult and mountainous terrain projects.  All I can say is we took the call,” said Whitefish CEO Andrew Techmanski.

The company’s $300 million contract to help restore power in Puerto Rico is taking on controversy.

Whitefish Energy will be in charge of hundreds of contractors working on the island, including Lakeland Electric.

“We are prepared to leave at any moment,” said Lakeland Electric supervisor Charlie Russell.

A 20-member crew is packed and ready to go.  A barge with eight trucks full of supplies is on its way to the island right now.

“What I understand is the place is pretty devastated.  It’s going to take a lot of men and a lot of time,” Russell said.

A Lakeland Electric spokeswoman said company leaders aren’t concerned about the controversy swirling around Whitefish. Their dealings have been reasonable as of now, she said.

But leaders in Washington are certainly concerned about how a small company is dealing with the massive undertaking.

“This doesn’t pass the smell test.  Whitefish has received a really, really fishy contract here,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois.

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