2013: Veils of Secrecy as More ‘Green’ Taxpayer Money Disappears

Money down the drainLast year at this time NLPC reviewed 2012 as “The Year of Taxpayer ‘Green’ Waste,” and that description applied to 2013 as well. But additional trends of government opaqueness and inattention to safety and security – often related to stimulus-funded programs and their corporate beneficiaries – were also revealed.

EPA, Dept. of Energy Secretive About Communications

As President Obama began his second term, watchdogs of the administration’s environmental (EPA, Dept. of Interior) and energy (Department of Energy) cabinet spaces discovered that officials maintained secret email accounts to conduct government business out of public view. Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute uncovered a fake identity maintained by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson while researching his book The Liberal War on Transparency. The effort to access her messages and those of other officials has been protracted.

EPA began producing records in January from Jackson’s “Richard Windsor” …

More Bankruptcies Just Mark of ‘Success’ for Dept. of Energy

Fisker logoFisker Automotive declared bankruptcy last week, inspiring the eternally optimistic Obama Department of Energy to crow about its achievements again.

“Recognizing that these investments would include some risk, Congress established a loan loss reserve for the program, and the Energy Department built in strong safeguards to protect the taxpayer if companies could not meet their obligations,” Bill Gibbons, an agency spokesman, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News. “Because of these actions…the Energy Department has protected nearly three-quarters of our original commitment to Fisker Automotive.”

Leave to the Obama administration hucksters to sell yet another green energy loser as a gain for the taxpayers. With this bankruptcy, it’s a $139 million loss that DOE gets to spin. The stellar defenders of the public purse originally thought Fisker was worth a $529 million risk, but quickly recognized that mistake and stopped paying at $193 million. Ever since it’s been a …

Inspector General Says DOE Hid Vital Info from Audit of Bankrupt Ecotality

Blink chargerAfter an Inspector General’s audit earlier this year of now-bankrupt electric vehicle charging company Ecotality, which determined that millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted in a nearly unworkable program, the IG has returned with findings that the Department of Energy withheld information about the project’s problems during his first investigation.

The audit, released by DOE IG Gregory Friedman in July, determined (among other things) that the persistent weak demand for electric vehicles harmed the deployment and timeliness of a $135 million-plus taxpayer funded charging network, which led to excessive grants and project expansion that became virtually unusable under the grants’ guidelines. Investigators discovered that conditions for reimbursement to Ecotality for the EV charging demonstration project were “very generous” and that cost-sharing requirements were extremely lenient.

Shortly after that report was released, on August 7, Ecotality informed DOE that it was in financial distress and that its ability to do …

Not Even Fisker’s Fire Sale Can Dampen DOE Enthusiasm for ‘Investments’

Fisker logoAfter the Department of Energy announced this week it had given up on not-bankrupt-but-should-be Fisker Automotive, and will auction off its loan for a pittance, you’d think (and hope) Congress would have had enough of this kind of thing. Senator John Thune certainly has.

“The Obama administration has gotten into the business of picking winners and losers at a significant cost to taxpayers,” said the South Dakota Republican yesterday. “I’m calling for the Senate to consider my amendment to eliminate the wasteful ATVM loan program and for my colleagues to join me in protecting taxpayer dollars from any future risky green energy investments.”

ATVM stands for “Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing,” but Fisker’s allegedly advanced technology vehicle – the once and often hyped Karma – hasn’t been manufactured for over a year. Nor is Vehicle Production Group, another failed ATVM recipient, producing any handicapped vans that run on compressed natural …

DOE Claims More ‘Success’ With Another Clean Energy Bankruptcy

Blink chargerEcotality declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday.

Compared to other Recovery Act beneficiaries that have failed – like battery maker A123 Systems and electric auto company Fisker Automotive – the deathwatch was short. A July 25th report issued by the Department of Energy’s Inspector General declared Ecotality’s EV Project largely a waste of time and misallocated money.

Then in mid-August Ecotality informed the Securities and Exchange Commission it was in deep financial trouble, with bankruptcy a possibility. A filing showed that the company was unable to obtain additional financing and the DOE had ceased payments to it for the EV Project until the agency could investigate further. DOE also warned Ecotality to not incur any new costs or obligations under the EV Project.

NLPC first raised questions about Ecotality’s viability and origins in October 2011.

Monday’s development is another black eye to President Obama’s green energy agenda, …

House Committee Grills DOE Loan Program Director Over Secret Emails

Jonathan SilverA hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week investigated the Obama administration’s practice of concealing email communications, with former top officials getting grilled about their use of private Internet accounts to conduct government business.

Two of the most egregious offenders were subject to withering scrutiny, although it didn’t last long enough to get very deep. Lisa Jackson, the former EPA Administrator whose FOIA-evadable email address was under the alias “Richard Windsor” – named in part for her dog – was questioned about a message sent to Siemens vice president Alison Taylor in which she asked her to “use my home email rather than this one when you need to contact me directly….”

Jackson, of course, said it was perfectly normal to direct a corporation official that she regulates to communicate with her via methods for which the public has no access. Marlo Lewis …