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CONTACT: Public Citizen
Dorry Samuels (202) 588-7742
Energy Department Must Disclose More Information About Loan Guarantee Program, Groups Say
In Spirit of Sunshine Week, Obama Administration Should Improve Transparency in Multibillion-Dollar Program
WASHINGTON - March 17 - The Department of Energy (DOE) should fulfill President Barack Obama's promise of government transparency and disclose information about a controversial $51 billion loan guarantee program, Public Citizen and partner organizations said in a letter sent today to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
Under the program, the government uses taxpayer money to back new nuclear reactors, as well as uranium enrichment, coal, and renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Taxpayers pay if the builder defaults.
So far, the government has pledged $8.3 billion in guarantees to build two new nuclear reactors in Georgia. In March 2009, the DOE approved the first conditional loan guarantee for $535 million for a solar panel manufacturer.
Fourteen groups signed the letter to the DOE, including Sustainable Energy and Economic Development, Beyond Nuclear, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council and Physicians for Social Responsibility.
The DOE's continuing refusal to provide even the most basic information about the loan guarantee program is inconsistent with Obama's pledge that openness would be a cornerstone of his administration.
"The agency has been authorized to issue $51 billion in loan guarantees, putting taxpayers on the line," said Allison Fisher, an organizer with Public Citizen's Energy Program. "But because of the DOE's lack of transparency regarding this program, taxpayers will have little, if any, ability to evaluate the feasibility of the projects they are being asked to underwrite."
In the spirit of Sunshine Week, a national initiative this week focusing on open government and freedom of information, Public Citizen calls on the DOE to disclose details about the loan guarantee program and comply with formal requests submitted to the DOE for information regarding the program's criteria and processes.
With the exception of one response that consisted of 18 highly redacted one-page letters, the DOE has failed to respond to three separate parties' FOIA requests for information about the department's review of applications for loan guarantees for nuclear or coal projects submitted since late 2008.
While Public Citizen acknowledges that the DOE may not be able to reveal all information about the program, it does not excuse the agency from publishing all non-sensitive portions of its analyses, releasing information about its criteria for evaluating applications. The agency also should reveal correspondence between the DOE and applicants regarding all loan guarantee applications, Public Citizen said in the letter.
"We urge Secretary Chu to immediately correct the current lack of transparency in the program that is unlawful, destructive to the public interest and corrosive of public trust in government, and we stand ready to work with the relevant agencies to meet this goal," Fisher said.
To read the letter, visit http://citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=3097.