House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Frank Lucas sent a fourth letter to the Department of Energy (DOE) regarding a grant to Microvast, a company with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Earlier this week, DOE communicated to Committee staff that Microvast would not be receiving the $200 million award as initially announced. While Lucas praised the decision earlier this week, he also noted that the Department’s continued lack of transparency has created more questions than answers.
“While the Committee is relieved to hear of the Department’s decision, we are alarmed by the widespread confusion and potential damage caused by DOE’s award process,” Lucas wrote. “The public announcement of these awards is irresponsible if the companies included have not been vetted. The Department’s lack of transparency regarding this decision is also cause for new and significant concern: DOE has refused to provide the Committee with its reason for canceling this award.”
Lucas emphasized that this issue is much bigger than Microvast. “While focused on Microvast, the Committee’s concerns highlight a much broader issue: whether or not DOE has a thorough vetting process in place to ensure taxpayer funds will not be subject to misappropriation by the CCP. We have repeatedly asked whether DOE is screening companies for problematic foreign ties and evaluating whether grantees have sufficient guardrails in place to protect taxpayer investments. Over the past few months, DOE has responded to these letters with various levels of indifference, providing incomplete and generic responses to the Committee’s questions.”
Lucas repeated his requests for information about DOE’s internal review process and asked for the Department’s reasoning behind canceling the Microvast grant, as well as the status of the other 19 awards announced in the same batch.
“This information is critical, not only for oversight of these specific awards, but to ensure that DOE has appropriate safeguards in place for the billions of dollars in new taxpayer funding it was given in recent legislation,” Lucas said. “If DOE cannot confirm that it has thorough processes in place to protect its awards from exploitation by the CCP, future award announcements will also be cause for Congressional concern.”
The Department of Energy announced in October of 2022 that it was awarding Microvast $200 million to strengthen American battery supply chains. The grant was among the first batch awarded under the Biden Administration’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure bill.
Lucas first raised concerns with this award in December of 2022 in a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm where he pointed out that, “Microvast itself discloses that the Chinese government ‘exerts substantial influence’ over their business activities and ‘may intervene, at any time and with no notice.’” He requested an immediate pause on any further funding of the program at that time. He sent a follow-up letter in January and another in March.