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An Oklahoma-based power company has repeatedly asked the Puerto Rican government to complete a payment for work it did to restore the island’s power grid years ago.
Mammoth Energy said the Puerto Rico Power and Electricity Authority (PREPA), the now-defunct government agency that previously oversaw the territory’s power grid and transmission infrastructure, still owes about $365 million for a contract the company won. in 2017. PREPA awarded subsidiary company, Cobra Acquisitions, contracts worth $1.6 billion to restore Puerto Rico’s decimated network after Hurricane Maria.
The company, which has worked on 17 other natural disaster cleanup projects, was ultimately owed a total of $1.3 billion after completing its work and leaving earlier than expected in 2019. When Cobra workers left the island, the PREPA still owed $224 million, an amount that has increased to more than $360 million when interest is taken into account.
“We treated it almost like a military action,” Mammoth Energy CEO Arty Straehla told Fox News Digital in an interview. “At one point, we had 1,000 people on the island who were working to restore power because the devastation was so bad. When we got there, 100% of the island was down.”
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“It was one of the most devastating things I’ve ever seen,” he continued.
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and surrounding islands in mid-September 2017, severely devastating the island’s power grid, medical services, and utilities such as running water. While the hurricane initially killed dozens of Puerto Ricans, a Harvard University study estimated that it later caused another 4,645 deaths.
The National Centers for Environmental Information reported that the storm caused $107.1 billion in damage, making it the third costliest storm on record in the US The Bipartisan Budget Act, which former President Trump signed into law in February 2018 , awarded $2 billion to restore Puerto Rico’s power grid and nearly $90 billion in total for disaster relief after a series of storms, including Hurricane Maria.
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Less than a month after Cobra signed the contract with PREPA in October 2017, the company sent several barges full of equipment and hundreds of workers to Puerto Rico to fix the network.
“We fell, we went through all the adversity,” Straehla said. “We ended up renting our own accommodation there because we didn’t want to rob ourselves of the island’s resources. So we took barges there where our men could stay offshore.”
“They would go out and work 16 hours a day and then come back.”
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Cobra completed her work and departed Puerto Rico in March 2019, according to Straehla. She said that the company had successfully executed its work, restoring power to the island, and was praised by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The RAND Corporation, a research and analysis firm, issued a report to FEMA after the company completed its work, saying the contract price was fair. The report did not analyze whether Cobra correctly implemented the contract.
“Cobra’s billable rates to PREPA are within those representative ranges and therefore reasonable for the emergency repair work performed by Cobra,” the report concluded.
However, Straehla said PREPA, which received taxpayer funding through FEMA, has been in violation of its contract since his firm completed its work.
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He added that the agency filed for bankruptcy shortly after Hurricane Maria and that Mammoth Energy has been involved in those court proceedings. PREPA’s assets were sold to the private sector firm LUMA Energy.
However, Straehla said that Mammoth Energy has been financially affected by the alleged breach of contract. The company has been forced to lay off hundreds of workers as a result of the situation.
“It had a tremendous impact on us, it certainly changed the trajectory of the company,” he told Fox News Digital. “We want to get paid, we want to reinvest, we want to create more jobs and continue to grow this company.”
“For a company our size, $365 million makes a huge difference in our track record.”
In a statement, FEMA spokesman Jeremy Edwards said the agency continues to fund permanent and emergency work in Puerto Rico related to Hurricane Maria. He also pointed out that FEMA has awarded more than $11 billion in federal funds for these needs, adding that the government of Puerto Rico must ensure that certain requirements are met when awarding grants.
“Before using FEMA funds, the Government of Puerto Rico and its subrecipients must ensure that the requirements of the grant program are met,” Edwards told Fox News Digital. “FEMA commends the Government of Puerto Rico’s development of sound accounting and fiscal management practices implemented since 2017 to ensure the appropriate use of federal funds.”
FEMA does not have the authority to compel PREPA to complete payments to contractors and subcontractors.
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Straehla’s pleas for PREPA to complete its payments to his firm come as Puerto Rico faces new devastation after Hurricane Fiona hit the island this week. The storm has killed eight people and left most of the island without power.
LUMA Energy did not respond to a request for comment.