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New emails point to political influence on energy loans

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Photo - Emails made public today by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-CA, contradict claims by President Obama and others in his administration that no political influences were exerted for Department of Energy loans. (AP Photo)
Emails made public today by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-CA, contradict claims by President Obama and others in his administration that no political influences were exerted for Department of Energy loans. (AP Photo)
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Previously undisclosed emails made public today by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee describe multiple instances of White House pressure on career Department of Energy officials to speed up approval of government loans to clean energy firms like Solyndra and Abound Solar.

President Obama is described in one of the emails as having personally approved "moving it ahead," thus reversing a prior decision by DOE career officials not to extend $2 billion in tax-funded help to AREVA, a French nuclear power company, on an Idaho project.

Vice-President Joe Biden is described in other emails as exerting heavy pressure to gain approval of a $1.3 billion wind farm project at Shepherd's Flat, Oregon.

The new emails contradict claims by Obama and others in his administration that all decisions on the $20 billion DOE clean energy loans were made by career executives in the department.

Most recently, Obama told a Denver television news interviewer on Oct. 26, 2012, that the loan decisions are "decisions, by the way, that are made by the Department of Energy, they have nothing to do with politics."

Energy Secretary Stephen Chu told the oversight panel in March this year that "we looked at the loans on their own merits." Previously during a November 2011 hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chu said he was "aware of no communication from the White House to the Department of Energy saying to make a loan or to restructure."

But an Oct. 30, 2010, email from Jim McCrea, a credit advisor to the energy loan program, to Jonathan Silver, the program's executive director, described his worries about pressure from the White House to use a "fast-track process" to approve loans.

"I am growing increasingly worried about a fast track process imposed on us at the POTUS [President of the United States] level based on this chaotic process that we are undergoing ... by designing the fast track process and having it approved at the POTUS level (which is an absolute waste of his time!) it legitimizes every element and it becomes embedded like the 55% recovery rate which also was imposed by POTUS," McCrea said.

In another email made public today by the House panel, Silver instructed McCrea to tell a Treasury Department official of White House support for DOE help to Abound Solar.

"You better let him know that WH wants to move Abound forward. Policy will have to wait unless they have a specific policy problem with abound," Silver said in the June 25, 2010, email.

Abound Solar is a Colorado-based solar panel manufacturer that had used $68 million of a $400 million DOE loan guarantee before filing for bankruptcy earlier this year.

Go here to read the emails made public today by the House panel.

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