Another Questionable Grid-Rebuild Contract in Puerto Rico FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Intercept:National Outrage has led to the cancellation of a suspicious $300 million contract doled out to a tiny Montana company that was oddly tasked with rebuilding large parts of Puerto Rico’s electric grid. A separate $200 million contract has faced little scrutiny, but may ultimately be even more scandalous for what it says about the effort to rebuild the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.The deal was inked with a company called Cobra Acquisitions LLC, which didn’t even exist until this year. It’s a subsidiary of an Oklahoma-based fossil fuel company, suggesting that neither the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority nor the federal government has much interest in seizing the opportunity presented by the storm to rebuild Puerto Rico in a sustainable way that relies on renewable energy rather than imported oil.Unlike the Whitefish contract, the Cobra deal with PREPA involved heavy input from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which — according to a recent conference call convened by Mammoth Energy Services — was “in the room” and there “every step of the way” as it was being meted out so as to be in line with the agency’s reimbursement requirements. (Neither FEMA nor PREPA representatives have responded to The Intercept’s multiple requests for comment.)“We expect this to be a credit to our corporate margin,” an unidentified Mammoth executive (likely Chief Financial Officer Mark Layton) said on the conference call. “Quite honestly, we wouldn’t have entered this contract if we didn’t think we’d get paid.”“The Cobra contract is less flashy and less obviously crazy,” Cathy Kunkel, an energy analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told The Intercept. “But together with [the Whitefish contract] shows the nexus of PREPA with oil and gas interests — the kind of companies that are go-to companies for PREPA.”Mammoth, Cobra’s parent firm, is primarily an oilfield services company, with several smaller subsidiaries selling a range of support offerings to fracking and other fossil fuel extraction operations. HBC Investments, one of Whitefish’s major financiers, owns several fossil fuel holdings. PREPA itself, like most island energy systems, is also inordinately dependent on imported oil, generating 47.4 percent of its power from that source alone.PREPA is currently $9 billion in debt and gives more than $1 billion a year to off-island oil and gas companies. Yet even as the utility’s leadership has acknowledged that its fiscal sustainability relies on a transition away from oil, its plan has been to transition not to distributed renewables — which are more resilient to storms — but to centralized natural gas. In 2010, Puerto Rico’s legislature set out a plan to get a full 12 percent of energy from renewables by 2015. As of 2015, just 3.3 percent of its power was derived from clean energy. Nearly a third of the island’s generating capacity, meanwhile, came from natural gas, and PREPA’s plan for 2035 includes the construction of a $400 million liquid natural gas import terminal. Currently, all signs point to PREPA rebuilding its energy system back to the pre-storm status quo — or worse.Alongside FEMA, Mammoth negotiated a $15 million payment from PREPA upfront and will be paid biweekly. The initial contract is for 120 days of work, though Mammoth stated repeatedly on the conference call that they expect that to be extended. “We hope,” Straehla said, “this leads to additional work in rebuilding the infrastructure after the emergency situation.”According to a presentation about its PREPA contract, Cobra-employed workers will in the short-term be tasked with providing a “comprehensive damage assessment of existing electrical grid”, “engineering services to aid in the design of a new electric utility grid to PREPA specifications,” “construction services to rebuild the electric grid,” as well as housing, food, and water for all of its employees and contractors so as not to create “an additional strain on the local population.”The stated expertise and experience may be a bit misleading. By phone, Wilson clarified to The Intercept that it was four top managers of Cobra that together hold an average of 25 years of experience in the utility sector, though he was unable to provide more information as to those executives’ names, which companies or utilities they had worked for, or the specific nature of their utility experience. While he and executives on the call said Cobra had been involved in grid restoration work following hurricanes Irma and Harvey, the company currently has no ongoing storm-related contracts outside of Puerto Rico. Wilson and executives on the call also each emphasized that Cobra has a history of working with private, investor-owned utilities (Cobra’s “main customers,” according to Straehla), but provided no details as to which IOUs Cobra has worked with.Beyond the specifics of either the Whitefish or Cobra Acquisitions contract is a larger one about why PREPA entered into any agreements at all with private contractors post-Maria. The standard procedure for near-term disaster response is for utilities to enter into mutual aid agreements with their counterparts in other states, facilitated by the American Public Power Association. Puerto Rico is entitled to these type of agreements, and — with the Whitefish contract severed — will now begin receiving such aid from utilities in Florida and New York.In all likelihood, Cobra Acquisitions’ management probably has more experience getting utilities back online than their counterparts at Whitefish Energy. The issues surrounding its contract, though, reflect broader problems plaguing PREPA: a startling lack of transparency, costly mismanagement, and an abiding fondness for the fossil fuel industry — all compounded by crippling debt and a catastrophic storm. The fiscal oversight board and others on the island see the solution to these problems as privatization. Late last week, that federally appointed body — now in charge of the island’s finances and government — cited PREPA’s pursuance of the Whitefish contract as rationale for wanting to install a Flint-style emergency manager to oversee the utility, a move many expect will pave the way for selling it off to the highest bidders.More: There’s a Shady Puerto Rico Contract You Didn’t Hear About
The Wisconsin men’s hockey team clearly knows how to get things done at home, but playing on the road is by no means its forte.This week, Wisconsin (5-6-1, 4-5-1 WCHA) travels to No. 5 Colorado College (5-2-0, 3-2-0 WCHA), where some painful memories linger from last year.The Badgers finished their regular season by splitting a series at home against the Tigers, only to face them the following week in the first round of the WCHA playoffs – but this time in Colorado.After splitting the first two games, the two faced off in a tie-breaker game to decide who would continue its season. The Badgers lost and were forced to make the long trip home knowing their up-and-down season was over.Last weekend, the Badgers upset the No. 1 Gophers 3-1 Friday night and eventually split the series after a 4-1 loss Saturday. While UW has been able to come away with big upsets at home, the greatest success it’s had so far on the road was a tie with St. Cloud State two weeks ago.The tie is a marked improvement, considering the Badgers were 0-3 in road games before it. But head coach Mike Eaves attributes his team’s struggles on the road to its inexperience.“This is the first time in buildings for a lot of guys, and [they’re] a little awestruck,” Eaves said. “Up in [Michigan] Tech we came close, and now we’ve got an opportunity to go here. In St. Cloud, we got a tie, so maybe we’re getting closer every time we go on the road.”Sophomore forward Keegan Meuer believes consistency is the key in order to solve their road problems.“Consistency is the key in any sport,” Meuer said. “It doesn’t really matter; you’ve got to show up both nights. We’re lucky enough to play Friday, Saturday, so you get maybe a little shot at redemption if you go out and play bad the first night. The key to any good team, you’ve got to set the bar high, you’ve got to match those expectations, prove that you can beat those and then you’ve got to do the same thing over and over.”The Badgers’ wounds suffered at the hands of the Tigers have only slightly healed, as they have to head back to Colorado a month and a half into the season.“It’s definitely going to give us a little more motivation, ending our season there [last year],” sophomore defenseman Joe Faust said. “They have a lot of the same guys back. And seeing that their team has won a lot of games and is at the top of the rankings right now, it’s a good opportunity for us to step up and hopefully get a couple wins.”Eaves said in his weekly press conference Monday that despite losing last year, the Badgers still played some great hockey, but certain bounces just didn’t go their way.While Eaves acknowledges it’ll be a new environment yet again for his team, he appeared confident about the upcoming series.“We’re ready to go,” Eaves said. “We’ve done our homework this week and we’ve prepared, and now we have to go on the road and go into a tough environment to see if we can get some things done there. I’m excited because they’re a good team, a quality team. It’s a tough building to play in – the biggest rink in the conference – and playing at the altitude that is there, it’s all fun stuff. It’ll be interesting to see how our young squad handles it all.”For Meuer, who was there last year and had an assist on the game-winning goal in the Badgers’ lone postseason win, he’s set on revenge.“I want to get them back bad,” Meuer said. “We went on the road there; we won the first game. I’ll be honest, we played a lot of good hockey out there. The second and third game, it was just a couple bad bounces. It wasn’t our time, it wasn’t our week.“The returning guys – there’s a lot of us in there – want to avenge that because we definitely haven’t forgotten about it.”
Video Credit: Twitter.com – ITV NewsRelated 100 meters world champion, Justin Gatlin has publicly apologised for his doping bans, after he was severely booed at the just concluded World Athletics Championships in London.Gatlin, 35, who defeated 8th time Olympic gold medalist and now retired Usain Bolt to claim the 100 meters in London, has served two doping bans, first in 2001 for taking a banned supplement for Attention Deficit Disorder and in 2006 for testing positive to steroid testosterone.Speaking exclusively to ITV News, Gatlin said: “If they wanted an official apology, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I apologise for any wrongdoings or any black eyes I brought onto the sport, I love the sport that’s why I’ve come back to run and try to run to the best of my ability and for that I’ve worked hard to right my wrongs.”Sprinter Justin Gatlin has a message for those who booed him after he won Gold at the World Championships this month https://t.co/YnbQBc010C pic.twitter.com/lkXXeTNlRI— ITV News (@itvnews) August 22, 2017He also claimed to have written an apology to the IAAF, saying: “Before the trial, before I was sentenced, I wrote an apology.”“The letter I wrote, which came out in 2015, it was suppressed for almost six years and I’m not sure who or why they suppressed it but I did apologise.”“I started a programme where I went and talked to kids and told them about the pitfalls of falling behind the wrong people, staying on the path, doing the right things.”Gatlin’s next race is at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Zurich this week.