Puerto Rico power utility chief resigns amid Whitefish contract scandal
SAN JUAN – On Friday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced that the island’s power utility director, Ricardo Ramos, was resigning.
The governor said the search has begun for “the best available talent in and outside Puerto Rico” to take over as the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (Prepa) new executive director, and recommended the utility board appoint the current director of generation, Justo González, as interim director.
“I trust that this process will be completed as quickly as possible, with the purpose of not affecting the work leading to the restoration of the electrical system throughout the Island, in accordance with the guidelines we have set,” Rosselló added in a written statement
After speaking at a healthcare-related event earlier Friday, the governor told the press that Prepa’s governing board was accepting Ramos’s resignation, at his request.
Via a press release, Ramos confirmed he submitted his resignation to the utility’s governing board effective Friday.
Ramos’s resignation comes after weeks of controversy over the hiring of Montana-based Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC, whose contract to restore transmission and distribution lines in the mountainous inland of the island was capped at $300 million, but then canceled effective Nov. 30.
This week, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. Senate held a hearing in which the governor and the utility director were questioned about contracting Whitefish after the emergency caused by Hurricane María in September, as well the delay in seeking support from stateside public utilities through mutual aid agreements.
Rosselló said he intends to have is target of having the 80% of the island’s power generation capacity up by Dec. 1.
“The resignation was worked on…in the best interest of the people of Puerto Rico,” the governor said earlier, explaining that although “the executive director is very professional,” he believes Ramos has caused “distractions” in his execution as head of the public corporation.
“The director is a professional. A time has come when it is unsustainable, and for the benefit of the people of Puerto Rico, that decision was made. I’m not focused on past actions, I’m focused on the future. I expect an effective, immediate transition, that we can continue with the pace of restoring energy,” Rosselló said.