×

UPDATE 1-U.S. House questions FEMA over Puerto Rico power contracts

(Adds details throughout)

WASHINGTON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives' energy committee on Wednesday said it wants the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to explain how it is overseeing contracts for rebuilding Puerto Rico's power grid after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

In a letter to FEMA, the committee raised questions about contracts between Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and two companies: Whitefish Energy Holdings and Cobra Acquisitions LLC, a subsidiary of Mammoth Energy Services Inc .

Six weeks after the hurricane swept across the island territory, two-thirds of its residents are still without power.

The committee said "federal leadership and strategic coordination" is needed to restore power, and outlined a series of concerns about the role played so far by FEMA.

On Sunday, Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello and PREPA said they would cancel a $300 million contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings, after a controversy over the deal's provisions and the Montana company's lack of experience with projects of such a large size.

The committee said it was concerned about FEMA's oversight of the Whitefish contract. The company could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Lawmakers also questioned provisions in a PREPA contract issued to Cobra Acquisitions, including "language which would appear to have the effect of preventing government oversight of the agreement."

A spokesman for Mammoth, Cobras parent company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a previous press release announcing the $200 million contract, Cobra said it would provide comprehensive assessment of damage to the existing grid, engineering services to design a new grid and construction services to rebuild the electric grid.

The lawmakers asked FEMA to brief its staff by November 15. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Richard Cowan in Washington and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)