Press Release

Bipartisan Committee Leaders Request Briefing and Further Information on FEMA’s Role Related to Puerto Rico Electrical Grid Restoration


11.01.17

Concerns with both Whitefish and Cobra Acquisition Contracts Raise Questions about Contracting Review Process


WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Energy Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Rush (D-IL), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), today sent a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator William Long regarding FEMA’s role relating to the recently cancelled contract between Whitefish, LLC., and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).

Citing previous FEMA statements, the committee leaders write, “It would appear that the Agency, until now, was not involved in one of the most significant decisions in the effort to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. Efforts by the governor of Puerto Rico and PREPA to cancel the contract with Whitefish underscored the need for federal leadership and strategic coordination of the effort to restore Puerto Rico’s electric system.”

“Additionally, according to media reports, PREPA also entered into contract with Cobra Acquisitions, LLC to perform restoration work on Puerto Rico’s electrical grid,” the bipartisan leaders continued. “Similar to the Whitefish contract, this contract also indicates FEMA review and approval and contains language which would appear to have the effect of preventing government oversight of the agreement, raising additional questions about the contracting review process for recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.”

They conclude, “Therefore, to assist the Committee with our ongoing oversight of hurricane response and recovery efforts, we request FEMA provide a briefing for the Committee staff no later than November 15, 2017 to explain FEMA’s efforts to date regarding the repair and reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. The briefing should address the following:

  1. What guidance or information to date has FEMA provided to the government of Puerto Rico or PREPA regarding coordination of efforts to rebuild the electrical grid? Given current efforts to cancel the contract with Whitefish, what additional guidance or information will FEMA provide going forward?
  2. Both the Whitefish and Cobra contracts contain language indicating “PREPA hereby represents and warrants that FEMA has reviewed and approved this Contract, and confirmed that this Contract is an acceptable form to qualify for funding from FEMA or other U.S. Government agencies.” According to FEMA, “any language in any contract between [the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority] (PREPA) and Whitefish that states FEMA approved that contract is inaccurate.” Please provide a timeline of FEMA’s awareness of and involvement with any and all contracts or activities with PREPA since August 2017. Please also provide background on FEMA’s role in reviewing and/or approving similar contracts after a natural disaster.
  3. Given that rebuilding Puerto Rico’s electric grid is fundamental to the island’s response and recovery, what is FEMA’s knowledge of and involvement with any strategic plan for this effort? If there is a plan, does it describe which contractors have been hired and their respective roles in restoring power?
  4. What are FEMA’s specific roles and responsibilities relative to the federal government’s effort to assist in the reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid? What consultation has occurred between FEMA, the Department of Energy, and other federal agencies, especially related to contracts for grid restoration?”

To read the letter online, click here.

Last week, the same bipartisan group of committee leaders sent a letter to the Whitefish CEO requesting a briefing and further documents.

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