Energy Department Must Disclose More Information About Loan Guarantee Program, Groups Say

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

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 - 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.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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