Boston Herald: Probe: Obama pushed $2B loan for Cape Wind
By Joe Battenfeld
Thursday, August 9, 2012
President Obama was personally briefed on Cape Wind’s request to secure a nearly $2 billion federal loan, with one official urging the Department of Energy to “get it done” because it was “important” to Obama, newly released e-mails show.
The emails, released as part of a congressional investigation into Cape Wind and other green energy companies like Solyndra, appear to show the administration trying to use political influence to approve the massive wind project on Nantucket Sound, according to investigators.
The federal loan was never approved but the Federal Aviation Administration did give the green light to Cape Wind in 2010. That decision was later thrown out by a federal appeals court and a review is pending.
In a letter to the president sent early yesterday, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, says the emails “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.”
Emails from Department of Energy officials show Obama had been briefed on the Cape Wind loan request, according to Issa’s investigators, and a former DOE political appointee in charge of the loan program,
Jonathan Silver, urged the department to approve it quickly.
“[Get] Cape Wind done by Sept. 30,” said the email, sent by Silver to a senior DOE official, Peter O’Rourke on June 16, 2011. “That’s more important to the president.”
The email referred to a Sept. 30 deadline for approving loan money. The DOE had rejected Cape Wind’s loan request in May 2011 but the email from Silver suggests the administration continued to push it.
Audra Parker, of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said the new emails show a pervasive “pattern of political influence trying to propel this project forward.”
“It goes well beyond the FAA,” Parker told the Herald.
The Alliance recently obtained emails from FAA officials, first reported by the Herald and Associated Press, that show they were keenly aware of the political ramifications of Cape Wind.
Issa’s committee is requesting documents from the White House related to its loan program to stimulate the clean energy sector, including a $1.4 billion loan awarded to the failed solar energy company Solyndra.
The committee has included Cape Wind’s failed effort to get a $1.8 billion loan in its request for documents.
The White House has denied exerting any influence on the controversial loan program.
“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. “Your interactions with business leaders at political events affected decisions to give billions of taxpayer dollars in loan guarantees to green energy companies.”