Washington D.C. – Last evening, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment (E&E), sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, questioning the appropriateness of several projects funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also referred to as the Stimulus bill) through the Department of Energy (DOE).  Under one such project, DOE partnered with the state of New York to provide $1.6 million to a beer distributor to convert its delivery trucks from diesel to compressed natural gas.

In March 2011, a DOE announcement titled “Green Beer: Not Just for St. Patrick’s Day,” detailed a DOE-funded Stimulus project that, in coordination with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), provided $1.6 million to the Manhattan Beer Distributors company to convert its diesel delivery trucks to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles and construct a new CNG fueling station.  Because this funding was provided through a sub-award of a $14 million grant to NYSERDA, it is not disclosed in DOE’s online Recovery Act database; the project’s existence is only known because DOE highlighted this spending in its communications materials.
“Given the need to rein in spending and reduce our mountain of debt, it is troubling that President Obama would consider this spending to be an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars,” Harris said.  “Perhaps more troubling, however, is the lack of transparency regarding how Stimulus funds are distributed, and on what those funds are being spent.”

A similar $15 million award from the Clean Cities AFV Program to the Puget Sound Clean Cities Coalition in Seattle appears to have supported the purchase of 200 natural gas taxis and shuttle buses.   Additionally, the Clean Cities Program’s Recovery Act materials suggest several major for-profit corporations have been the beneficiaries of this program’s funding, including UPS, Verizon, Waste Management, Ryder, and FedEx.  In each of these cases, the precise contributions of DOE, other Federal agencies, State, local, and private funding is not clear. 

In the letter Rep. Harris says that such awards “raise serious questions regarding the appropriateness of providing taxpayer dollars to private companies to purchase and deploy vehicles.” 

The letter requests additional details from DOE regarding the programs that funded these projects, and requests that DOE work to improve disclosure and transparency of Recovery Act spending.

A full copy of the letter can be found HERE