Cummings and Plaskett Obtain New Documents Showing FEMA Failed to Respond to “Emergency Requests” for Fuel to Prevent Food from Spoiling After Hurricane Maria

Mar 20, 2018
Press Release

Cummings and Plaskett Obtain New Documents Showing

FEMA Failed to Respond to “Emergency Requests” for

Fuel to Prevent Food from Spoiling After Hurricane Maria


Members Request Gowdy Subpoena DHS for

Hurricane Documents Withheld from Months


Washington, D.C. (March 20, 2018) – Today,  Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Stacey Plaskett from the U.S. Virgin Islands sent a letter to Chairman Trey Gowdy providing new documents indicating that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) failed to respond to multiple emergency requests from major supermarkets seeking fuel to run generators to help prevent food from spoiling in the days immediately following Hurricane Maria—including tons of fresh produce, dairy, and other perishable products that were desperately needed by these American citizens.  The members reiterated their request to Chairman Gowdy for a subpoena to compel the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to produce documents it has been withholding from the Committee for months.


They wrote: “These new documents show that senior officials at Walmart took extraordinary measures to try to convey their emergency requests to FEMA.  They enlisted congressional offices and officials from the government of Puerto Rico to try to communicate with FEMA.  They explained repeatedly that they had emergency generators already in place with enough fuel to preserve food stocks for a matter of days, but that they needed FEMA’s help to obtain additional emergency fuel to keep their food from spoiling after that.”


The Members continued: “These new documents show that the government of Puerto Rico communicated these emergency requests directly to FEMA, including repeatedly conveying them in person and in writing.  The documents also show that by September 27, 2017—a full week after the hurricane struck—FEMA failed to supply emergency fuel to save these perishable food supplies.”


They added: “Documents show that FEMA did not respond to requests for fuel as tons of desperately needed food went bad.  It is unclear whether FEMA had a plan to distribute emergency fuel that it failed to execute, or whether FEMA had no plan at all.”


Today’s letter follows another letter that Cummings and Plaskett sent to Gowdy on February 6, 2018, providing him with documents they obtained indicating that FEMA failed to deliver tens of millions of emergency meals because it inexplicably awarded a contract to deliver 30 million emergency meals worth approximately $156 million to a tiny, one-person company with a history of struggling with much smaller contracts. Twenty days later, FEMA terminated the contract “for cause” after having accepted only 50,000 meals—more than 29 million meals short of their goal.


In today’s letter, the Members explained that DHS has been stonewalling the Committee for the past five months, has failed to produce key documents they requested, and has not produced a single email relating to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico.


They again asked Gowdy to issue a subpoena, by March 29, 2018, to compel DHS to produce all of these documents in their October request, including documents about requests for fuel from Walmart and other food retailers. The Members asked that Gowdy place this matter on the agenda for their next business meeting so that all Committee Members could vote on a motion to issue this subpoena if he chooses not to issue it.


Click here to read today’s letter.

115th Congress