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‘Very Bad Look’: GOP Senator Grills Key Energy Dept Loan Official About His Ties To Green Energy Trade Group

Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming grilled Jigar Shah, the director of the Loan Programs Office (LPO) within the Department of Energy (DOE), over Shah’s ties to a green energy trade group on Thursday.

The exchange occurred during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing about the DOE’s decision-making process for awarding funds allocated by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the bipartisan infrastructure law. Shah founded a green energy trade organization called the Cleantech Leaders Roundtable in 2017, which has seen its influence and revenues surge after Shah left his post to take over the LPO in 2021, an office that  has about $400 billion at its disposal from the two pieces of legislation to subsidize green energy development, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

“I think it’s a very bad look for you personally, and a very bad look for the Department of Energy,” Barrasso said to Shah of his connections to the Cleantech Leaders Roundtable. “Will you commit to refrain from associating with your previous trade association for the rest of your tenure at the Department of Energy?”

The Cleantech Leaders Roundtable did not have a website four years ago, but it now hosts sold-out events featuring Shah for its paying members across the U.S. on a regular basis, according to the Beacon. In recent years, firms tied to the Cleantech Leaders Roundtable have scored cash made available by the LPO, and Shah’s office recently green-lit a $3 billion loan to a solar company led by the board director of the trade association, while several of the trade association’s corporate sponsorship partners have also received LPO dollars.

“Senator Barrasso, thank you for that very important question. I think it’s important to take a step back and understand the role that I have at the Loan Programs Office,” Shah answered. “My job has been to gain private sector trust, and so I’m all in, for sure, on American innovators and entrepreneurs. And I have spared no event or time or conference to figure out how to promote the Loan Programs Office, but because of your excellent oversight, and the oversight of the inspector general, the Loan Programs Office has been substantially improved since 2011 and 2012: we now have a risk management group, a portfolio management group, and so I have no role to play whatsoever in choosing who gets a loan.”

Some green energy industry insiders have bristled at Shah’s continued connection to the Cleantech Leaders Roundtable, with one such insider describing the arrangement as appearing to be a “pay-to-play scheme,” according to the Beacon.

Shah “refused, in front of this committee, to commit to refrain from associating with his previous organization that talks about hundreds of billions of dollars from him,” Barrasso fired back.

“I asked him a straightforward question … whether or not you found some nice little loophole, this is ethics 101. It’s a bad look for you, it’s a bad look for the program, it’s a bad look for the Secretary of Energy and it is a bad look for the Biden administration,” he said.

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