Letter notes “significant questions about the impartiality of the LPO’s operations.”
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 Teri L. Donaldson, Inspector General of the Department of Energy (DOE), highlighting questions about inappropriate outside influence on the work of the Loan Programs Office (LPO) and its Director, Jigar Shah.
Specifically, this letter urges Donaldson to investigate systemic issues within the Loan Programs Office. It notes that Shah continues to interact with officials of Cleantech Leaders Roundtable - an organization he founded – and who stand to benefit from awards of the LPO. Senator Barrasso has previously highlighted other questionable actions by the LPO in letters sent on November 8, October 25, and October 19.
Key Letter Excerpts:
“The relationships and interactions between Director Shah and the Cleantech Leaders Roundtable (CTLR), an organization he founded, raise significant questions about the impartiality of the LPO’s operations. I am concerned that Director Shah’s position as Director of the LPO has been turned into a profit center for CTLR. I am also concerned that CTLR members are receiving special treatment by the LPO.”
“Archives of CTLR’s official website reveal CTLR was still promoting Director Shah's close affiliation with the organization, as well as Shah’s official government title, as early as December 2021 and as recently as March 2023, a full two years after Director Shah officially left CTLR. As late as March 2023, Director Shah was listed as “Board President Emeritus” at CTLR.”
Read the full letter here and below:
The Honorable Teri L. Donaldson
Office of Inspector General
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20585
Dear Inspector General Donaldson,
I am urgently calling for a comprehensive investigation into systemic issues within the Loan Programs Office (LPO) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), particularly highlighted by the conduct of its Director, Jigar Shah. The relationships and interactions between Director Shah and the Cleantech Leaders Roundtable (CTLR), an organization he founded, raise significant questions about the impartiality of the LPO’s operations. I am concerned that Director Shah’s position as Director of the LPO has been turned into a profit center for CTLR. I am also concerned that CTLR members are receiving special treatment by the LPO.
These conflicts are detailed in my attached correspondence to Director Shah and separately to DOE's Designated Agency Ethics Official, Susan Beard. A notable instance is the $3 billion partial loan guarantee awarded to Sunnova under Director Shah's leadership, where Anne Slaughter Andrew, a board member of Sunnova, also served on the CTLR board. Her subsequent departure from the CTLR board, following inquiries from legislative bodies, underscores the need for thorough scrutiny.
New evidence starkly contradicts Director Shah’s claims of disassociation from CTLR in his attached December 7, 2023 letter, including his continued promotion on CTLR's website. Archives of CTLR’s official website reveal CTLR was still promoting Director Shah's close affiliation with the organization, as well as Shah’s official government title, as early as December 2021 and as recently as March 2023, a full two years after Director Shah officially left CTLR. As late as March 2023, Director Shah was listed as “Board President Emeritus” at CTLR. The current CTLR website no longer features Director Shah on its home page.
CTLR's Executive Director Andrea Luecke has repeatedly affiliated Director Shah with CTLR well after Director Shah began his tenure as LPO Director even promoting access to Director Shah at invite-only events as a means to build CTLR’s membership.
Furthermore, it appears that Director Shah is downplaying his role within the LPO to mitigate concerns about his close ties with CTLR. Despite his assertions before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on October 19, 2023, about minimal involvement in LPO's decision-making, there is substantial evidence pointing to his considerable influence within the office. Director Shah claimed, "I have no role to play whatsoever in choosing who gets a loan. In fact, those decisions are made by federal staff," and characterized himself as “not that important.” However, the reality of his role seems to contradict these statements.
Director Shah’s impact within the LPO extends beyond direct involvement in loan approvals. As he himself notes in his December 7th letter, his influence is more nuanced, subtly guiding the direction of the LPO. This indirect yet significant sway in LPO activities underscores his integral contribution to the office’s strategic operations.
The industry-wide recognition of Director Shah’s influence further attests to his prominence and sway within the LPO. His listing as a “Titan” on the Time 100 Most Influential Climate Leaders in Business 2023 list is a testament to his status in the sector. This is further corroborated by Anne Slaughter Andrew, who, at the Deploy23 event, referred to him as “our resident sage,” a mark of deep respect from a peer in the industry. Additionally, CTLR member Catherine McLean likened Director Shah to a one-name celebrity “like Madonna” in an interview with CTLR Executive Director Andrea Luecke.
These observations highlight Director Shah's individual impact on the LPO. His insights and guidance play a pivotal role in shaping the LPO's decision-making and strategic direction, pointing to a concentration of his influence within the office. This situation emphasizes the significance of leadership in molding the ethics and practices of the LPO and underscores the necessity of maintaining balance and impartiality in LPO’s operations.
In light of these concerns, the proposed investigation should focus on the following areas:
- Evaluation of Discrepancies in Director Shah’s Disassociation Claims with CTLR: An examination of the inconsistencies between Director Shah's stated disassociation from CTLR and evidence of his continued recognition as “Board President Emeritus” by the organization, and its potential effects on the transparency of decision-making within the LPO. Specifically:
- Did Director Shah authorize the use of his name and DOE title for CTLR’s webpage?
- If he did not, what cease and desist actions did DOE’s LPO take to prevent CTLR from using an official DOE title to promote its activities and expand its membership?
- In his December 7, 2023 letter to me, Director Shah claims his activities listed in my October 18, 2023 letter were conducted “in a personal capacity.”
- For all activities covered by my October 18, 2023 letter was Director Shah on official leave? Did he personally cover all expenses related to the events?
- Is it common practice for senior DOE officials to attend events that appear directly related to their official functions in a non-official “personal” capacity?
- Review of LPO Processes and Procedures Related to the Awarding of Loans and Loan Guarantees: This includes a comprehensive review of the financials and board controls of applicants, ensuring thorough due diligence and integrity in the selection process, along with an analysis of internal DOE decision-making processes to assess the levels of approval and the checks and balances within the LPO.
- Conflict of Interest and Impartiality Protocols: Review the LPO’s conflict of interest policies and impartiality protocols, especially in relation to high-level executives and their external organizational ties. As it relates to Director Shah specifically:
- Was Director Shah recused from participation in CTLR events?
- If not, should Director Shah have been recused to prevent conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest?
- Influence Dynamics within the LPO: Investigate the internal influence dynamics, focusing on the impact of leadership prominence on staff decisions, loan approvals, and the strategic direction of the office.
- Systemic Influence and Association within the LPO: An evaluation of how personal and professional associations, as demonstrated by Director Shah’s relationship with CTLR, affect decision-making within the LPO and its ethical operation.
- Analysis of the Sunnova Loan Guarantee and Anne Slaughter Andrew’s Role: An inquiry into the approval process of the $3 billion loan guarantee to Sunnova, including an investigation into any potential conflict of interest arising from Anne Slaughter Andrew’s dual roles.
An investigation is critical to ensure the LPO operates with the highest standards of integrity, impartiality, and transparency.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
John Barrasso, M.D.