A congressional committee is probing President Obama’s “personal interest” in the Cape Wind energy project and the extent of his knowledge about White House officials pushing the Department of Energy to give the controversial offshore wind energy factory a $2 billion loan, according to e-mails obtained by a congressional committee.
The e-mails are part of a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigation into the Department of Energy’s (DOE) loan guarantee program for green energy development that included such failures as Solyndra, a solar cell manufacturer that went bankrupt last fall, defaulting on a $535 million loan of taxpayer money.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Subcommittee Chairmen Jim Jordan and Trey Gowdy sent the president a letter August 8, 2012, saying they had obtained documents “that raise questions about how your interactions with business leaders at political events affected decisions to give billions of taxpayer dollars in loan guarantees to green energy companies through the Department of Energy’s 1705 Loan Guarantee Program.” The DOE had denied Cape Wind’s request for a $2 billion loan in May 2011, but a June 16, 2011 e-mail from Jonathan Silver, a political appointee who was director of the loan program, indicates the administration continued to pressure the department to approve the loan. In an e-mail to Peter O’Rourke, another senior DOE official, Silver says, “[G]et Cape Wind done by Sept. 30. That’s more important to the president.” September 30 was a deadline for loan approvals.
The Cape Wind project was a test case for the Obama administration’s claimed commitment to honor the needs and laws concerning Indian nations. The controversial private development project, which has been touted by the Obama administration as America’s first offshore wind farm, proposes to construct 130 turbines across 25 square miles of public waters in Nantucket Sound where they would tower 440 feet above ocean level. The installation would obliterate the Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes’ unimpeded view of the rising sun, ruining a crucial ceremony that is central to their identity. The project is vigorously opposed by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a non-profit umbrella group for dozens of elected officials, towns, tourism and business organizations, environmental groups, fishermen, aviation and boating organizations, and residents and still has several lawsuits pending against it.
The committee letter goes on to say that the investigation found the Federal Aviation Administration approved the Cape Wind project in 2010 despite safety concerns. That approval was revoked last October by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and remanded back to the agency for review. “On numerous occasions FAA officials stated they were aware of the ‘politics’ of the decision and that Cape Wind ‘was being moved by politics,’” the committee members write. They cite an April 1, 2011, e-mail from Angela Havens, manager of the FAA Operations Support Center in Boston to a manager in Washington asking for information about “the political implications associated with the Cape Wind project.” A month later, Richard Hastings, FAA’s Eastern Service Area Program and Requirements Terminal Team Manager, presented a slide show showing the “political implications” of the Cape Wind project, committee members write. “In addition to describing political apprehension about refusing to approve Cape Wind, a slide in the presentation stated, ‘The Secretary of the Interior has approved this project. … The Administration is under pressure to promote green energy production.” These e-mails, the members write to Obama, “create the appearance that your perceived personal desire to see the Cape Wind project move forward may have led to political pressure on FAA officials to approve the project.”
The committee has asked Obama for addition information, documents and other information regarding the loan guarantee program by August 21. “The American people have a right to know the level of involvement you and other senior White House officials had in the loan guarantee program,” the committee members wrote.