Turns out that Whitefish Energy was all set to bilk Puerto Rico out of tens of millions for getting the lights back on, and they couldn't even do that right.
The small energy outfit from Montana that won a $300 million contract to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s tattered power grid had few employees of its own, so it did what the Puerto Rican authorities could have done: It turned to Florida for workers.
For their trouble, the six electrical workers from Kissimmee are earning $42 an hour, plus overtime. The senior power linemen from Lakeland are earning $63 an hour working in Puerto Rico, the Florida utility said. Their 40 co-workers from Jacksonville, also linemen, are making up to $100 earning double time, public records show.
But the Montana company that hired the workers, Whitefish Energy Holdings, had a contract that allowed it to bill the Puerto Rican public power company, known as Prepa, $319 an hour for linemen, a rate that industry experts said was far above the norm even for emergency work — and almost 17 times the average salary of their counterparts in Puerto Rico.
A spokesman for Whitefish, Chris Chiames, defended the costs, saying that “simply looking at the rate differential does not take into account Whitefish’s overhead costs,” which were built into the rate.
“We have to pay a premium to entice the labor to come to Puerto Rico to work,” Mr. Chiames said. Many workers are paid overtime for all the time they work. Overtime pay varies by type of worker, union membership, mainland utility company and many other factors.
The markup is among the reasons that federal officials are scrutinizing all other contracts involving Puerto Rico. The control board that oversees Puerto Rico’s finances is seeking more authority over the billions headed the island’s way, including the power to review big contracts and randomly inspect smaller ones.
Two weeks after Prepa abruptly withdrew the contract from Whitefish following strong criticism by federal and congressional officials of the company’s expected ability to perform the work needed, more questions are being raised about the deal, including how much it will actually cost. Whitefish will keep repairing power lines until Nov. 30.
As the Trump administration prepares to spend billions of dollars on rebuilding Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, the Whitefish deal — hatched in a dim powerless room six days after a storm packing winds of nearly 150 miles an hour knocked down thousands of power poles and lines — has served as a cautionary note about the potential for soaring costs that are common in the wake of disasters.
The Whitefish Energy contract is not serving as a "cautionary note" at all. As Naomi Klein warned us about some ten years ago with Dubya, it's serving as an instruction manual for the Trump regime. The entire year of 2017 has been the GOP's brutal application of Klein's "Shock Doctrine" theory in action.
It will only get worse. They're not hiding it anymore because they don't have to.