Tags: Climate Change | Dan Poneman | Department of Energy | employment | Centrus

House Panel Investigates Ex-Energy Official Over Employment Laws

By    |   Wednesday, 01 April 2015 01:54 PM

A House panel is investigating whether any laws were broken regarding former Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman's move to the private sector, according to a report.

Politico reports that Poneman was recently hired as the CEO of Centrus Energy Corp, which provides enriched uranium for the nuclear industry and the U.S. military. Now, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is trying to figure out if Poneman violated laws because he worked with the company, which used to be called the USEC, during his time at the Department of Energy before being hired to run it.

While Poneman was serving as the second in command at the Department of Energy (2009-2014), Centrus received hundreds of millions of dollars in government funds.

"Given Mr. Poneman's involvement in the numerous dealings between DOE and USEC since 2009, we are concerned that he may have violated post-employment laws for federal personnel, including restrictions that require senior government officials to report when they are seeking private employment," committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz and Interior subcommittee Chairwoman Cynthia Lummis wrote in a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, reports Politico.

The committee is asking the Energy Department and Centrus to hand over documents spanning five years, including correspondence involving Poneman and any talks that may have taken place regarding him getting a job with the company.

Poneman, according to Politico, said he was not approached by Centrus regarding the CEO position until after he left the Department of Energy. He will earn, according to the report, as much as $1.7 million a year.

"At no time during his employment with the Department of Energy did anyone affiliated with Centrus contact Mr. Poneman to discuss future employment opportunities," Centrus spokesman Jeremy Derryberry told Politico.

Centrus was formally part of the Department of Energy when it started doing business in 1992, but it broke away from the government in 1998 and entered the private sector. The company has had troubles staying above water and entered bankruptcy last year, proceedings for which it completed in September. At that point, the company's name was changed to Centrus.

During the last few years, the Obama administration as well as Republican lawmakers have supported the company, reports Politico, and the government has provided it with contracts and leases to help it stay in business.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked Moniz about Poneman's situation during a committee hearing last week.

"He was heavily involved in [the] decision to keep USEC afloat, particularly when that was just what was being done," Feinstein said. "This seems to ignore his potential influence with career bureaucrats. I'm really less concerned about the optics for Mr. Poneman than I am the department's. How can anyone fully trust a DOE or contractor decision that benefits Centrus?"

During his last speech at the Department of Energy in the fall, Poneman said climate change and nuclear energy are two major factors threatening the planet.

"By my count there are exactly two issues that I think could be characterized as existential threats, meaning threats that actually relate to existence of our planet, and one's nuclear and one's climate," Poneman said, according to The Hill.

Questions have surrounded other energy firms doing business with the government in recent years, including Ormat Technologies and Solyndra.

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A House panel is investigating whether any laws were broken regarding former Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman's move to the private sector, according to a report.
Dan Poneman, Department of Energy, employment, Centrus
Wednesday, 01 April 2015 01:54 PM
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