House GOP demands DHS investigate if FEMA funds were used to buy Uyghur-made Chinese solar panels

The U.S. Virgin Islands used FEMA funds for a solar energy project

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are demanding the Department of Homeland Security "conduct an immediate investigation" on whether Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief funds were used to purchase Chinese solar panels possibly made by Uyghur slave labor.

"[W]e are concerned with federal taxpayer dollars Congress has allocated to FEMA for supplemental disaster relief since 2017 and how they may be used," the 18 GOP lawmakers wrote in a letter Wednesday to DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari. They noted their concern that agency "funds being used to enrich China, an adversary with a record of human rights abuses and slave labor."

The legislators also said the federal government provided the U.S. Virgin Islands with $8 billion in disaster relief following two hurricanes in 2017, almost $5 billion of which was from FEMA.

The agency awarded the territory $4.4 million for a new 28-megawatt solar micro-grid project on St. Croix in 2021. Albert Bryan, governor of U.S. Virgins Island, plans to make St. Croix completely dependent on solar energy

The majority of the solar components used around the world are made in China, with "[a]lmost 40 percent of the global production of polysilicon, a key component in solar panels, comes from the Xinjiang region," according to the letter, which is where Uyghurs are kept under conditions of slave labor.

The letter also notes that "the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) was signed into law in December 2021 to prevent the U.S. purchase or importation of goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China." The law went into effect in June.

The U.S. Virgin Islands "officials expect FEMA to fund the bulk of the remaining $129 million project cost," the letter added. "This territory-wide transition to solar power will potentially serve to massively enrich China."