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Millions Of Puerto Ricans Just Lost Power Again After Line Repaired By Whitefish Energy Failed

Millions of residents in Puerto Rico were left in the dark after a major power line repaired by the tiny Montana company Whitefish Energy failed Thursday morning, plunging almost all of the island, including parts of San Juan and other major cities, back into darkness.

Just 18 percent of Puerto Rico now has power, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) said, according to BuzzFeed News.

The line failure took out 25% of Puerto Rico’s power generation, which was at 43% capacity just before the failure, according to the island’s energy utility. Just 18% of the territory now has power, and officials did not have a clear timeline on when the power will be restored.

PREPA’s director of generation, Justo González, said it was not yet clear why the line had failed.

“The system hasn’t completely gone out,” González added. “We have 18% power generation.”

The power line, which runs from Cambalache to Manatí in the island’s north, providing power to Puerto Rico’s capital city, is one of the major sections of the power grid that Montana firm Whitefish Energy was working on as part of its controversial contract with PREPA.

In a Nov. 3 press release, Whitefish Energy said that its team had restored transmission lines and towers to “more than 10 miles from Cambalache transmission center to Manati (line 50100).”

PREPA’s handling of power restoration in the wake of Hurricane Maria has come under scrutiny after reports revealed that Whitefish Energy, a tiny firm with just two full-time employees, secured a $300 million contract without a competitive bidding process, and that it included contractor rates far higher than the industry norms. Faced with several federal and territorial investigations into the deal, PREPA cancelled the contract last month.

The island’s energy utility is flying helicopters over the area where the line failed to determine the cause of Thursday’s disruption, and is prioritizing restoration of power at hospitals, airports, water pump stations, and economic areas.

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