Barrasso Requests Department of Energy Ethics Review of Jigar Shah Over $3 Billion Dollar Loan to Sunnova

November 9, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), sent a letter to the Department of Energy’s Designated Agency Ethics Official, Susan Beard, highlighting potential conflicts of interest within the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office.

Specifically, this letter urges Ms. Beard to examine the Loan Programs Office Director Jigar Shah and his external affiliations with organizations, particularly Cleantech Leaders Roundtable and his specific loan decisions. Senator Barrasso has previously highlighted other questionable actions by Director Shah in letters sent on October 26 and October 19.

Read the full letter here and below:

Dear Ms. Beard,

I write with deep concern regarding potential conflicts of interest within the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Loan Programs Office (LPO). These concerns encompass both the involvement of LPO Director Jigar Shah in specific loan decisions and his relationships with external organizations, particularly Cleantech Leaders Roundtable.

I am troubled by the discrepancies between Mr. Shah’s October 19, 2023 testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and accounts presented in the Wall Street Journal regarding his influence in the LPO’s loan-making processes. The Wall Street Journal’s depiction of Mr. Shah’s proactive role, especially in the case of Li-Cycle Holdings and the significant loan facilitated under his watch, starkly contrasts his self-described minimal involvement.

Furthermore, a recent report has highlighted a concerning relationship between the LPO and Cleantech Leaders Roundtable, a trade association founded by Mr. Shah. Mr. Shah’s apparent close collaboration with this organization has included his participation as a guest speaker for “at least 10 of the organization’s closed-door events and receptions, which cost up to $250-a-person to attend.”

The potential for conflicts of interest, especially in light of a $3 billion loan approval for Sunnova, a company who shares a board member with Cleantech Leaders Roundtable, cannot be overlooked. The board member in question, Anne Slaughter Andrew, is the spouse of the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Joe Andrew. Such intertwining of personal, political, and professional relationships raises further questions about the impartiality of loan approvals and the susceptibility of the process to undue political influence.

Mr. Shah, in his close collaboration with the Cleantech Leaders Roundtable, also appears to be in clear violation of the Biden Ethics Pledge’s Revolving Door Ban. Upon Mr. Shah’s appointment, he was required to certify that:

“[He] will not for a period of 2 years from the date of [his] appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to [his] former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.”

As the Designated Agency Ethics Official, your oversight is paramount in ensuring that the DOE operates with the highest ethical standards. Given the severity of these issues, I am requesting the following:

  1. An official ethics review of Mr. Shah’s relationship with Cleantech Leaders Roundtable, as well as other external organizations Mr. Shah has engaged with in his official capacity.
  1. A thorough examination and assessment of Mr. Shah’s adherence to the Biden Ethics Pledge, including any actions taken by Mr. Shah that may conflict with the pledge’s stipulations. This should cover an evaluation of Mr. Shah’s recusal protocols and decisions, especially pertaining to matters that could directly benefit his former trade association and its members within the two-year timeframe outlined by the pledge. Please provide documentation on how these protocols have been enforced and any violations that have been identified and addressed.
  1. Detailed information on all communications, events, and collaborations between the LPO (including Mr. Shah) and Cleantech Leaders Roundtable, and documentation of any potential influence on loan decisions.
  1. A comprehensive overview of DOE’s internal reviews or assessments concerning these potential conflicts of interest, including findings and actions taken.
  1. Clarification on whether Mr. Shah has faced any recusal concerning dealings with Cleantech Leaders Roundtable or related entities during his tenure at DOE.
  1. A full report on any internal complaints or concerns within the DOE regarding the LPO’s relationship with Cleantech Leaders Roundtable and the subsequent responses to such complaints.
  1. A detailed description of all ethics guidance provided to Mr. Shah related to his employment at DOE.
  1. A detailed description of all ethics guidance your office provided to Mr. Shah related to his involvement with the Cleantech Leaders Roundtable.

I urge you to address these issues with the urgency and seriousness they warrant. I expect a comprehensive response to these concerns and requests no later than November 21, 2023.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.