Senator Ramps Up Scrutiny of 'Political Influence' at Department of Energy in Wake of Free Beacon Report

Sen. Barrasso calls for ethics review of Loan Programs Office and its director, Jigar Shah

Jigar Shah, John Barrasso (, Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
November 9, 2023

Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) this week ramped up his investigation into "undue political influence" at the Department of Energy's loan office.

Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in a letter sent Wednesday called on DOE counsel Susan Beard to conduct an ethics review of the Loan Programs Office and its director, Jigar Shah.

The letter comes after the Washington Free Beacon reported on Shah's unusual relationship with a trade association he founded. The Cleantech Leaders Roundtable, a group that Shah ran before he was tapped to oversee the $400 billion Loan Programs Office, has acted as a gatekeeper for companies seeking loans from Shah.

Last month, Shah's office finalized a $3 billion loan for Sunnova, a solar company that shares a board member with the Cleantech Leaders Roundtable.

"The potential for conflicts of interest, especially in light of a $3 billion loan approval for Sunnova, a company [that] shares a board member with Cleantech Leaders Roundtable, cannot be overlooked," wrote Barrasso.

Barrasso noted that the Sunnova and Cleantech Leaders board member, Anne Slaughter Andrew, is married to former Democratic National Committee chairman Joe Andrew, which could raise additional questions about political influence.

"Such an 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," Barrasso wrote.

Barrasso said he was also "troubled by the discrepancies" between Shah's testimony to the committee last month and a Wall Street Journal profile on Shah earlier this year. The Loan Programs Office director during his testimony downplayed his influence on the loan approval process, telling lawmakers that he has "no role to play whatsoever in choosing who gets a loan." But according to the Journal profile, Shah actively courted specific companies to participate in the loan program.

One of the companies recruited by Shah, Li-Cycle Holdings, received a $375 million Loan Programs Office loan to build a battery facility. The Li-Cycle CEO was reportedly reluctant to take the federal loan, but Shah persuaded him to do it, according to the Journal.

Li-Cycle was forced to shut down construction of the plant last month due to financial difficulties.

Barrasso asked Beard to conduct an "ethics review of Mr. Shah's relationship with Cleantech Leaders Roundtable, as well as other external organizations." He also requested documents related to Shah's compliance with the Biden administration's ethics pledge, which requires officials to refrain from working with former employers for two years after joining the administration.