Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A Democratic congressman on Tuesday called for an investigation into a $300 million contract awarded to a small firm based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Montana.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority awarded the contract to Whitefish Energy Holdings to help crews restore transmission and distribution lines damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Maria.

Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said Congress “needs to understand why the Whitefish contract was awarded and whether other, more cost-effective options were available.”

The Interior Department denied that Zinke, a former Montana congressman, played any role in the contract award. Zinke’s son had a summer job at a Whitefish construction site.

“Neither the secretary nor anyone in his office have taken any meetings or action on behalf of this company,” the department said in a statement.

Zinke knows Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanskis “because they both live in a small town where everyone knows everyone,” the statement said.

Ricardo Ramos, director of Puerto Rico’s power authority, said the government has a $300 million contract with Whitefish and a separate $200 million contract with Oklahoma-based Cobra Acquisitions after evaluating up to six companies.

Whitefish was one of two companies on the government’s shortlist, Ramos said.