GOP lawmakers allege cozy ties between Obama officials, solar project company

Republicans are expanding attacks on federal green-energy programs with allegations that officials at the Department of Energy (DOE) were too cozy with Prologis Inc., a company that received a $1.4 billion loan guarantee to help support a major nationwide rooftop solar project.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans released emails Tuesday showing that a DOE contractor, using his personal email account, shared a draft DOE presentation with Prologis touting the conditional approval of the “Project Amp” guarantee two weeks before it was issued last June.

The deal was completed in September.

The June 3, 2011, email from Peter O’Rourke, a contractor who served as a senior adviser in the DOE loan program, to officials with Prologis and project-backer Bank of America said it was “very important” that they not share the confidential document.

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“Feel free to use the concepts that we articulate in your own words, if you don’t already have this in your message,” states the message from O’Rourke that included a copy of DOE materials describing the benefits of the project to install panels on commercial buildings.

Republicans also released separate emails between Prologis and DOE officials about edits to a document about the construction project.

“These documents show that DOE officials were entirely too close with a loan recipient, giving the company access to pre-decisional information and encouraging the company to make edits to internal documents,” said a spokesman for Republicans on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is holding a hearing on the loan guarantee program Tuesday.

But Dan Leistikow, DOE’s director of public affairs, pushed back against allegations that the messages show the department was too close to a loan guarantee recipient.

“The department asking a company to verify information about its application or sending them information about their own project is hardly unusual or surprising. While the documents simply rehash old issues the committee has already covered, they do offer even further proof that the department's decisions about loans were based on a thorough, technical consideration of the facts and merits of the case — and nothing else,” he said.

A third document, a copy of the loan agreement between DOE, Bank of America, a Prologis subsidiary and other parties, lists Chinese solar panel companies among the list of approved and potential vendors for the project.

The committee spokesman said the agreement shows that the project might be creating jobs in China.

The new criticisms add to attacks on the loan guarantee program that have intensified since last year’s collapse of Solyndra, the solar panel company that received a $535 million guarantee in 2009. (Prologis initially planned to purchase panels from Solyndra for a portion of the project.)

Energy Department officials have strongly defended the loan guarantees issued through the stimulus law, which expanded and helped fund the green-energy loan program that was first authorized in a bipartisan 2005 energy bill.

The department, citing information from the project sponsors, estimates that Project Amp will generate more than 1,000 construction jobs over several years through addition of panels to buildings in more than two dozen states.

Walter Rakowich, the co-CEO of Prologis, touted the project in his testimony submitted to the Oversight Committee for Tuesday’s hearing.

“We believe that our core assets in the industrial real estate area can be effectively utilized to generate significant solar energy output and thereby contribute to the goal of energy independence,” he said.

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