The FAA will issue new determinations for Cape Wind based on statutes and regulations and factoring in the appeals court decision, FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta wrote in a letter last week to Issa and Rep. John Mica, R-Fla. The Republican lawmakers have said internal FAA emails show political pressure might have played a part in the agency's initial approval. Despite its cryptic nature, Silver's email, coupled with the FAA 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," Issa wrote to Obama.
A GOP lawmaker continues to question whether federal officials were pressured to approve aspects of the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm, including a multibillion dollar loan from the government that was never awarded.
In a five-page letter sent Wednesday to President Barack Obama, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, requests additional documents related to the Energy Department’s 1705 Loan Guarantee Program and ties perceived pressure to approve a loan for Cape Wind to other decisions by loan program administrators that, he says, contradicted advice from top economic advisers.
The loan program has been under fire since the August 2011 bankruptcy of Solyndra, a California-based solar company that received a $535 million federal loan.
A nearly $2 billion loan guarantee for Cape Wind was put on hold in May 2011, and the company never received the loan. At the time, Energy Department Loan Programs Office director Jonathan Silver wrote in a letter to Cape Wind and other loan applicants that energy officials might reconsider in the future.
“We must caution you, however, that there is no assurance that we will ever be in a position to continue our evaluation of your project or of the terms on which we would do so,” Silver wrote.
According to Issa’s letter, Silver is the same official who pushed in an email a month later, June 16, 2011, to get a loan for Cape Wind approved.
“(G)et cape wind done by sept. 30. That’s important to the president,” Issa quotes Silver as saying in an email to loan program senior adviser Peter O’Rourke.
The quote highlighted in Issa’s letter, however, is only part of a longer email exchange reviewed by the Times in which Silver appears to be betting on the reaction of other officials in energy policy discussions. It is not clear from the email if Silver’s statement about Cape Wind is intended to be his own words or a facetious guess about what another official might say.
A spokeswoman for Issa did not return messages seeking comment on the letter. An Obama spokesman declined to comment on the letter.
In his letter to the president, Issa reiterated concerns from his office and Cape Wind’s opponents that the Federal Aviation Administration has been pressured politically to approve the project.
The FAA approved the 130-turbine Cape Wind project in May 2010. But after the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound and the town of Barnstable appealed the decision, the United States Court of Appeals sent the project back to the agency in October 2011 for more review. In its decision, the court found the FAA had overlooked its own rules in making its determination.
The FAA will issue new determinations for Cape Wind based on statutes and regulations and factoring in the appeals court decision, FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta wrote in a letter last week to Issa and Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.
The Republican lawmakers have said internal FAA emails show political pressure might have played a part in the agency’s initial approval.
Despite its cryptic nature, Silver’s email, coupled with the FAA 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,” Issa wrote to Obama.
Even though Cape Wind did not qualify for the loan, the email from Silver is more proof that politics is driving the project, Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound president and CEO Audra Parker said.
“It is expanding this pattern beyond the FAA that it is politics rather than the project’s merits that have tried to push it forward,” she said.
Cape Wind has been approved by the FAA three separate times under both Republican and Democratic administrations, company spokesman Mark Rodgers said.
Cape Wind’s application for a Department of Energy loan guarantee was intended to help launch a new U.S. industry, create 1,000 jobs in Massachusetts and reduce the price of Cape Wind’s power, Rodgers wrote in an email. “However, in May 2011, the DOE notified Cape Wind that our application was ‘on hold’ due to the program’s funding constraints. To date, Cape Wind has received not a single dollar of federal financial support, under either the Bush or Obama administrations.”
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