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Unread 2017-10-24, 01:37 PM   #1
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I understand that they are just following the Cheney/Halliburton model but the idea that they actually thought this would be okay is jaw-droppingly stupid:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/natio...=.fd287498ce49
Quote:
Small Montana firm lands Puerto Rico’s biggest contract to get the power back on

For the sprawling effort to restore Puerto Rico’s crippled electrical grid, the territory’s state-owned utility has turned to a two-year-old company from Montana that had just two full-time employees on the day Hurricane Maria made landfall.

The company, Whitefish Energy, said last week that it had signed a $300 million contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to repair and reconstruct large portions of the island’s electrical infrastructure. The contract is the biggest yet issued in the troubled relief effort.

Whitefish said Monday that it has 280 workers in the territory, using linemen from across the country, most of them as subcontractors, and that the number grows on average from 10 to 20 people a day. It said it was close to completing infrastructure work that will energize some of the key industrial facilities that are critical to restarting the local economy.

The power authority, also known as PREPA, opted to hire Whitefish rather than activate the “mutual aid” arrangements it has with other utilities. For many years, such agreements have helped U.S. utilities — including those in Florida and Texas recently — to recover quickly after natural disasters.

The unusual decision to instead hire a tiny for-profit company is drawing scrutiny from Congress and comes amid concerns about bankrupt Puerto Rico’s spending as it seeks to provide relief to its 3.4 million residents, the great majority of whom remain without power a month after the storm.

“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,” said Susan F. Tierney, a former senior official at the Energy Department and state regulatory agencies. “I’m scratching my head wondering how it all adds up.”

PREPA’s executive director, Ricardo Ramos, and a spokesman did not respond to emails asking why the utility didn’t activate the mutual-aid network. On a tour of the idled Palo Seco power plant, Ramos told reporters that Whitefish was the first company “available to arrive and they were the ones that first accepted terms and conditions for PREPA.”

Ramos said that the utility is “completely content” with the work Whitefish is doing. “The doubts that have been raised about Whitefish, from my point of view, are completely unfounded,” he added, saying that concerns about Whitefish were probably spread by jealous competitors.

Whitefish officials have said that the company’s expertise in mountainous areas makes it well suited for the work and that it jumped at the chance when other firms were hesitating over concerns about payment. The company acknowledges it had only two full-time employees when Maria struck but says its business model calls for ramping up rapidly by hiring workers on short-term contracts.

Spokesman Chris Chiames dismissed criticism about the company’s qualifications. “We are taking personal risks and business risks working in perilous physical and financial conditions,” Chiames said. “So the carping by others is unfounded, and we stand by our work and our commitment to the people of Puerto Rico.”

Whitefish Energy is based in Whitefish, Mont., the home town of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Its chief executive, Andy Techmanski, and Zinke acknowledge knowing one another — but only, Zinke’s office said in an email, because Whitefish is a small town where “everybody knows everybody.” One of Zinke’s sons “joined a friend who worked a summer job” at one of Techmanski’s construction sites, the email said. Whitefish said he worked as a “flagger.”

Zinke’s office said he had no role in Whitefish securing the contract for work in Puerto Rico. Techmanski also said Zinke was not involved.

Techmanski said in an interview that the contract emerged from discussions between his company and the utility rather than from a formal bidding process. He said he had been in contact with the utility two weeks before Maria “discussing the ‘what if’ scenarios” of hurricane recovery. In the days after the hurricane, he said, “it started to make sense that there was a need here for our services and others.”

On Thursday, Techmanski told CNN simply: “We called each *other.”

The scale of the disaster in Puerto Rico is far larger than anything Whitefish has handled. The company has won two contracts from the Energy Department, including $172,000 to replace a metal pole structure and splice in three miles of new conductor and overhead ground wire in Arizona.

Shortly before Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, Whitefish landed its largest federal contract, a $1.3 million deal to replace and upgrade parts of a 4.8-mile transmission line in Arizona. The company — which was listed in procurement documents as having annual revenue of $1 million — was given 11 months to complete the work, records show.

Puerto Rico has 2,400 miles of transmission lines across the island, and 30,000 miles of distribution lines with 300 substations. Jeff Hawk, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ power restoration task force, estimated that 80 percent of the grid has been damaged. A month after the storm, about 80 percent of customers remain without power.

With the entire Puerto Rican commonwealth in bankruptcy, and the utility itself in default on $9 billion in debt, spending for the recovery is drawing scrutiny from the Trump administration and Congress. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and José Carrión, chairman of the federal oversight board created to resolve the island’s long-running financial crisis, were summoned to Washington last week for a meeting with the Office of Management and Budget.

The House Committee on Natural Resources is examining Whitefish’s role in Puerto Rico, said Parish Braden, a spokesman for the committee. The hiring of the little-known company has been noted by the trade publications Utility Dive and E&E News.

“The size and unknown details of this contract raises numerous questions,” Braden said. “This is one of many things the committee is taking a close look at as it continues to work with the resident commissioner, governor’s office, and oversight board to ensure Puerto Rico’s recovery is robust, effective and sustained.”

Rosselló said Wednesday that the island would spend $490 million on the initial phase of repairing the commonwealth’s grid, adding that “a large portion of that would probably go to Whitefish” and another contractor. The utility gave Whitefish a $3.7 million initial payment for “mobilization of personnel and equipment,” the contract says. Whitefish could be paid as much as $300 million for up to two years of work.

Under the contract, the hourly rate was set at $330 for a site supervisor, and at $227.88 for a “journeyman lineman.” The cost for subcontractors, which make up the bulk of Whitefish’s workforce, is $462 per hour for a supervisor and $319.04 for a lineman. Whitefish also charges nightly accommodation fees of $332 per worker and almost $80 per day for food.

Only eight contracts larger than $20 million have been approved for Puerto Rico by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, with half of those for shipments of food and bottled water. Whitefish’s contract surpasses the $240 million contract the Army Corps awarded to engineering giant Fluor to “augment ongoing efforts” to repair the power grid.

The commonwealth, strapped for funds before Hurricane Maria hit, is expected to run out of cash as early as the end of the month, according to people familiar with the island’s finances. And even if the Senate and the president approve the House’s $4.9 billion aid package for Puerto Rico, the island might need more money in as little as three months.

PREPA did not reach its agreement with Whitefish until Sept. 26, six days after the storm swept through. By comparison, the Florida utility FPL requested mutual aid before Hurricane Irma hit. The result was an army of nearly 20,000 restoration workers, including FPL employees, from 30 states and Canada at work on the first day.

On Oct. 1, FPL had teams assembled to assess damage in Puerto Rico. It posted notices in Spanish and English on its Facebook page: “FPL is ready to help Puerto Rico.” Florida Gov. Rick Scott mentioned the offer in a news release.

The Florida utility says it never received a reply. The Puerto Rican utility has not replied to offers of assistance from mutual-aid partners, according to the American Public Power Association, which coordinates such operations.

Techmanski called the damage in Puerto Rico “among the worst that I have ever seen” in more than 20 years of work rebuilding power lines after storms. According to his LinkedIn page, Techmanski has held leadership roles in utility service companies based in Vancouver, Texas and California.

“It will take months, if not years, to repair the entire grid to full operational status,” he said.

NBC Montana quoted Techmanski in a report Oct. 1 as saying he had asked Zinke for help in getting personnel and equipment to the territory. Chiames, the Whitefish spokesman, confirmed that “Once the company got the go-ahead from PREPA on September 26 to begin work, company executives did reach out to contacts in case they could help expedite getting qualified linesmen to the island.”

Zinke’s office said: “The Secretary always politely listens when citizens and the small business community approach him with concerns and ideas. Neither the Secretary nor anyone in his office have taken any meetings or action on behalf of this company.”

Whitefish’s Twitter feed features videos of workers dangling from helicopters and describes its progress but also suggests the work has been challenging.

In one post, a team was reported to have set up six concrete poles, but had “all day issues with material.” A crane showed up “broke and we had to fix it.” Equipment in a warehouse had rusted. Narrow roads were cited as a safety concern, as were “very large termite nests.”

Techmanski said that Whitefish was focusing on fixing key transmission lines and was using helicopters and cranes to reach them. “Once we complete those, the effort’s going to move on to other transmission and distribution systems,” he said. “So we’re just ramping up and providing as many people as we possibly can.”

Kent McNellie, an investment professional at HBC, the Texas investment firm that is now the largest financier of Whitefish, said the company’s experience reconstructing a one-mile power line destroyed in a wildfire in Washington state was more relevant to Puerto Rico’s needs than is the experience of many companies on the mainland. The span in Washington included an elevation change of about 5,000 feet, and the terrain required crews and equipment to be delivered by helicopter.

“Most guys go up in a 30-foot bucket truck, and they can do that from Texas to New York, but you don’t need an army of bucket trucks,” McNellie said. “Andy realized you had a transmission problem and that requires 90-foot buckets, 100-foot ladders and helicopters — that’s not the typical crew you can get through mutual aid.”

Even before the storm swept through Puerto Rico, years of neglect and mismanagement had degraded the territory’s electrical grid so badly it was “literally falling apart,” according to a consultant’s report prepared for the Puerto Rico Energy Commission.

Nonetheless, Rosselló said recently that 95 percent of the power would be restored by Christmas.

Techmanski is doubtful.

“I don’t know where he got that and what information he was using,” he said. “Without doing a full assessment countrywide, I couldn’t fathom how many months, if it’s going to be two months, three months, five months. . . . We’ve been focused in the small areas that we’ve been working.”
Cliffs: a company with 2 employees that is from Interior Secretary Zinke's hometown and is run by one of his friends got the $300M contract to restore electricity to Puerto Rico. their CEO had maxed out donations to Trump both primary and general election cycles and the Trump Super PAC. a sweetheart $300M contract is quite the ROI for less than $500k... this is how kleptocracies operate. and I'm pretty sure this should be a gut-check moment for you MAGA supporters that think he actually intends to make things better. he's a huckster and you're the marks, wishing it wasn't so doesn't change the decades of evidence of that truth.
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Unread 2017-10-24, 01:44 PM   #2
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Unread 2017-10-24, 02:19 PM   #3
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I'm sure it will get looked into, as some people involved have already called for.

I would say it's a tough sell to put this on the Trump hate-wagon... as it's a decision made by Puerto Rico... but then again people have lumped so much onto that wagon, that most don't care anymore. So I'm sure this can be lumped right in.

Better source, IMO.

https://weather.com/news/news/puerto...ower-whitefish
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Unread 2017-10-24, 02:34 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Ricerking13 View Post
I'm sure it will get looked into, as some people involved have already called for.
I would say it's a tough sell to put this on the Trump hate-wagon... as it's a decision made by Puerto Rico... but then again people have lumped so much onto that wagon, that most don't care anymore. So I'm sure this can be lumped right in.
Better source, IMO.
https://weather.com/news/news/puerto...ower-whitefish
Occam's Razor.
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Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ”all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocricy. - Lincoln
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Unread 2017-10-24, 02:44 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by phreakdna View Post
Occam's Razor.
Local corruption and questionable spending by a govt that had a history of local corruption and questionable spending?

Or were you just saying Trump because, well Trump? What evidence do you have other than them being donors that Trump was actually behind this decision? Is he also responsible for the mismanagement that lead to them being $9 billion in debt?
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Unread 2017-10-24, 03:20 PM   #6
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Trump gets it (imo) as an extension of "when you're the President everything is credited to you/your fault" but the majority of it would seem to point to Zinke. in the same way that when he was looking to rent a private jet to travel from Vegas to his home after a long day of talking to a hockey team on the taxpayers' dime, he just so happened to rent it from an oil CEO that he's friendly with for $12k

for Occam's razor, what's more likely:
a) that a PREPA official just so happened to have two numbers handy when he was looking for help and one of them was a 2 person company from shitheel, nowheresville Montana that was connected to the Trump administration and run by Trump donors
or
b) that someone tipped a scale along the way

maybe this will all turn out to be circumstantial but it stinks like shit at present
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Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ”all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocricy. - Lincoln
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Unread 2017-10-24, 09:05 PM   #7
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Guess now that Trump is President phreak gets to be MACHINE.
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Unread 2017-10-25, 07:10 AM   #8
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So reading a bit more and and whole "two employees" narrative is a bit misleading seeing as how they are basically nothing more than a contractor. Guess they have done projects before, they just hire others to do the actual work and coordinate the project.
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Unread 2017-10-25, 09:16 AM   #9
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Guess now that Trump is President phreak gets to be MACHINE.
that's just hurtful.
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Unread 2017-10-25, 01:45 PM   #10
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that's just hurtful.
If the tin-foil fits.

So, a little more detail from a source we might agree on:

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-w...in-puerto-rico

PREPA is local, Trump doesnt control it. Not saying there couldnt be corruption but its easily more likely its local. But the explanation by PREPA CEO makes a decent amount of sense:

"We knew there was going to be a direct hit, so we wanted as much resources as possible," Ramos told NPR. "Their name popped up on several fronts."

Ramos says PREPA received bids from a few companies in the lull between Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. The utility, which filed for bankruptcy in July, shortlisted two, including Whitefish.

"Just before Hurricane Maria came, one of those two requested a payment guarantee that we thought was a bit onerous, so we decided to mobilize Whitefish," Ramos says.

So its like a payday loan or buy here pay here lot. They won because they were willing to risk not getting paid at all.
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Unread 2017-10-26, 01:17 PM   #11
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so here's a section from that same article that may have been worth mentioning:
Quote:
...While the Whitefish spokeswoman says it's "not possible at this time to estimate" the cost of completing the work, the hourly wages the firm is reportedly charging for its contracted workers are eye-popping.

"Under the contract, the hourly rate was set at $330 for a site supervisor, and at $227.88 for a 'journeyman lineman,' " The Washington Post reports. "The cost for subcontractors, which make up the bulk of Whitefish's workforce, is $462 per hour for a supervisor and $319.04 for a lineman. Whitefish also charges nightly accommodation fees of $332 per worker and almost $80 per day for food." ...
saying that subcontractors "make up the bulk of Whitefish's workforce" is a bit generous because they basically make up the entirety of it as its still an incredibly small firm.


and apparently its not just liberals that are concerned that this deal smells about as good as week old fish:
http://www.nationalreview.com/articl...ontract-stinks
Quote:
...
Meet Whitefish Energy, which has just been awarded a $300 million project to rebuild storm-smacked Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. Whitefish is based in the hometown of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who knows the firm’s chief executive and whose son once worked for Whitefish in a modest capacity. Whitefish Energy has two full-time employees, and its largest government contract prior to this was a $1.3 million job fixing 4.8 miles of power line. Its biggest government job other than that was replacing a pole. Whitefish Energy is a two-year-old firm, and it reported $1 million in revenue on its procurement documents. The firm plans to charge Uncle Stupid more than $300 an hour for a subcontracted lineman and $462 an hour for a subcontracted supervisor. (Subcontractors will make up the bulk of its work force, since — let’s repeat — the firm has two full-time employees.) The company will also charge about $400 per worker in per diem food and housing costs. A former Department of Energy official calls the arrangement “odd.” Indeed.

No real work force, no experience in comparable government projects, and a job that is, by itself, about 300 times the firm’s reported revenue — what gives? The official explanation is that Whitefish has experience working in the mountains, and Puerto Rico has mountains. There was no formal bidding process. Well. There wasn’t anything obviously criminal or illegal about Philadelphia’s awarding a cozy no-bid contract to the mayor’s brother. It very well might have fallen within the letter of the law. But it was wildly corrupt, entirely inappropriate, and precisely the sort of thing that causes people to mistrust their government. A $300 million no-bid contract for a two-person firm with connections to a cabinet secretary and no experience in doing work on the scale of rebuilding Puerto Rico? All legal, I’m sure.
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Unread 2017-10-26, 02:18 PM   #12
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Federal Per Diem rates for lodging and food are <$155, assuming the contractor will be there longer than 180 days. That includes lodging and food.

For workers that will be there less than 30 days, the maximum amount is $283 for lodging and food.

So they're charging at least $129 over what they should for per diem for each employee. Worst case ($121 per diem, the lowest number I found) is 3.5x more than what they should be charging.

https://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/pd.../opdrates5.cgi
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Unread 2017-10-26, 02:48 PM   #13
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Well, should based on federal rules. But its a private entity hiring them. So the issue is whether FEMA will allow them to use the money for the contract or balk at overspending.
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Unread 2017-10-26, 08:03 PM   #14
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Well, seeing as FEMA is headed by a Trump nominee...
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