Are clean energy dollars going to polluters?
To nab mobsters, law enforcement has to do business with some pretty unsavory characters. A similar reality might be at play in the U.S. government's pursuit of job-creating clean-energy projects.
To be sure, an investigative article by the Center for Public Integrity is pointing out that some recipients of Obama administration stimulus funds are "big polluters" and they're getting their grants, loans and contracts without the scrutiny called for under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
"The Center has found roughly three dozen companies with past environmental problems that won NEPA exemptions for stimulus-funded projects from the Energy Department. Those projects total $2 billion - or 6 percent of the department's total money awarded so far," journalists Kristin Lombardi and John Solomon report.
Regulators in the administration say what are known as "categorical exclusions" under NEPA have been vital to speeding some $30 billion of stimulus money toward clean-energy projects—and creating 35,000 jobs.
"And in the long run, they say, the exempted stimulus activities will serve to boost energy efficiency and curb pollution," Lombardi and Solomon report.
The journalists uncovered documents that reveal that funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act went to companies who admitted "their stimulus projects might cause 'unknown environmental risks' or could 'adversely affect' sensitive resources"; who "acknowledged they would produce hazardous air pollutants or toxic metals"; or had only recently settled major pollution cases.