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Examiner Editorial: Obama's Interior Department stalls clean energy query

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Editorial

President Obama, confronted yet again by House and Senate investigators probing the cronyism in his green energy programs, did what he often does.

He simply ignored Congress.
 
“Last November, a request was made of the Department of the Interior for information and answers about its role in the Department of Energy’s green energy loan guarantee program, as well as favorable loans and federal land-use deals provided to certain corporations,” wrote Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in a letter to Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week. “It is suggestive and troubling that more than half a year has passed without DOI providing the requested documents and information.”
 
The lawmakers fear that several politically connected green energy companies received special treatment from the Interior and Energy departments due to their relationship with Obama. They focused their inquiry on six companies in particular: Abengoa Solar, BrightSource Energy, First Solar, Nevada Geothermal Power, NextEra Energy Resources and SolarReserve.
 
Issa and Sessions suspect that Salazar initiated a “fast-tracking” process that allowed some companies to receive regulatory and environmental approval and permission to use government lands for clean energy projects without adequate vetting. Whereas the review process for establishing an oil or gas lease on federal land can take more than a decade, some of these favored projects were pushed through in less than a year.
 
The lawmakers asked Salazar months ago about SolarReserve – which received a $737 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy last year. SolarReserve is connected to the same Obama campaign bundler, George Kaiser, who invested heavily in Solyndra.
 
First Solar -– a company that is also using government subsidies to buy products from itself over international borders, as the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney reported -– might soon follow Solyndra into bankruptcy. So might Nevada Geothermal, despite a $98.5 million federal loan guarantee.
 
Congressional investigators have uncovered some direct White House involvement in the loan process, particularly with respect to BrightSource. John Bryson, who now serves as Obama’s Commerce Secretary, once served on the board of BrightSource. He also co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). which Republican committee staffers assert has secretly helped negotiate funding agreements between green energy companies and the federal government.
 
But that wasn’t the only contact between BrightSource and the Obama team. In 2010, BrightSource CEO John Woolard even asked a DOE official to review a drafted letter that Bryson intended to send to then-White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, asking for help securing a loan. “We need a commitment from the WH to quarterback loan closure between OMB [Office of Management and Budget] and DOE,” the drafted message said.
 
BrightSource received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee, but still had to cancel its initial public offering in April. “The continued market and economic volatility are not optimal conditions for an I.P.O.,” Woolard said in a statement.
 
Salazar, for the last six months, has followed the same playbook that Energy Secretary Steven Chu has followed with Solyndra investigators: Stall, and give Congress as little information and documentation as possible. Attorney General Eric Holder, who leads the Justice Department, has adopted the same tactic with investigators probing the gun-walking scheme, Operation Fast and Furious, to the point that contempt charges are being considered against him.
 
The persistent refusal of multiple cabinet appointees to submit to congressional oversight regarding their decision-making processes raises grave concerns about what the Obama administration is hiding with regard to these projects.
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