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The original owners, BP and Rio Tinto, got out of the project because of rising capital costs and the inability to win power purchase agreements.

The department argued to Sedillo that the new owners actually lowered taxpayer risk by adding the fertilizer plant to the project, which should provide an additional revenue stream.

A company official said in a 2011 statement that the addition of fertilizer production would make the project “cost effective and economical.”

Croyle added that the project would further “significant environmental objectives in low-carbon manufacturing and power generation.”

Energy Department officials also stressed that in the early stages of the project they expected financial projections to change and that their review of the new contract was as rigorous as the one conducted for the initial award.

Sedillo urged the department to develop policies governing reviews of projects undergoing ownership changes and to undertake allowable cost reviews of the HECA project.

Croyle also donated $4,800 to campaigns of Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., from 2009 through 2011 and $1,000 to the campaign of Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., last year.