As the second round of independent review on the Saipan power project gets underway, companies vying to clinch the $120 million contract have intensified their own campaign at the Legislature in an attempt to drum up support for their bids.
But lawmakers claimed the meeting with prospective contractors is intended to clear misconceptions which have come up on the heels of the tight race to build the new 80-megawatt power plant on the island.
Executives of the Marubeni Corp. of Japan and its US partner Sithe Energies, Inc. yesterday met briefly with some members of the House of Representatives, a day after officials of Enron International held a discussion with the same group.
Both companies are closely competing on the project, touted to be the largest deal ever in the Northern Marianas. Marubeni-Sithe was ranked ahead of Enron after the first round of review conducted by a private engineering firm.
Rep. David M. Apatang, chair of the House committee on Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications, downplayed the meeting, saying they just listened to the concerns voiced out by Marubeni-Sithe.
The House is currently reviewing a proposed legislation seeking full support behind the Japanese conglomerate chosen last year by the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation to construct the project.
But the deal has since been canceled following protests on the decision, prompting the government-owned utility firm to hire Burns and McDonnell to conduct an independent re-evaluation of all the proposals.
In the bill offered by Senate Vice President Thomas P. Villagomez, the Legislature will grant full faith and credit backing to Marubeni-Sithe — a move being opposed by Enron.
According to Speaker Diego Benavente, Marubeni officials have assured that they would allow CUC and the CNMI government to continue with the process of the independent evaluator.
“Although they raised concerns and we have also raised concerns, the biggest interest is to try to complete this project, to get this project going,” he said.
The speaker also asked utility officials to speed up the review so that the plant can be built as soon as possible.
“Once that is done, we would have fulfilled what is necessary at this point so we can then support the outcome of the independent evaluation and support CUC and its decision to sign with any firm who comes out winning the independent evaluation,” Benavente said.
The Kansas City-based engineering firm is expected to begin the next phase of review on “best and final offers” within the next few weeks after nine companies which made it to the list have submitted their proposals, according to CUC officials.