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Zinke-Linked Company Wins $300M Contract to Restore Puerto Rico’s Electricity

In Puerto Rico, less than 10 percent of the island’s public schools were able to resume classes on Tuesday — now a month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Of the schools that were able to reopen, most had no electricity or internet access.

On Tuesday, Congress approved a $36.5 billion emergency spending plan to fund the recovery from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The spending plan gives Puerto Rico access to $4.9 billion in loans. The plan also gives billions to FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program.

Meanwhile, a tiny Montana company called Whitefish Energy has won a $300 million contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, known as PREPA, to restore parts of Puerto Rico’s devastated electrical power grid. The company is only two years old and had only two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. It’s based in Whitefish, Montana—the tiny hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Zinke has admitted he knows the company’s CEO, although Zinke claims he had no role in brokering the contract. The company, Whitefish Energy, is backed by the private equity firm HBC Investments, whose founder donated $27,000 to Trump’s primary election campaign and another $20,000 to the Trump Victory PAC during the general election.

At least 80 percent of Puerto Rico still has no electricity, and about a quarter of the island still lacks clean drinking water. There are dozens of suspected cases of the leptospirosis, a potentially fatal bacterial infection caused by contact with water contaminated by animal urine. Authorities are investigating whether four deaths were caused by the disease.

Meanwhile, in Texas, a 31-year-old man who was helping repair homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey has died after he was diagnosed with a rare flesh-eating bacterial disease. He’s at least the second person now in Texas to die after contracting the extremely rare disease from Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters.

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