Chu strongly denied that he made any decision on Solyndra based on political considerations.
Republican lawmakers pressed Chu to explain the decision to give Solyndra $535 million in federal loan guarantees. Democrats charged that the grilling reflected House Republicans’ aversion to supporting clean-energy technologies that might antagonize the oil and coal industries.
“A central focus of the investigation is to understand why [the Department of Energy] did what it did and how we find ourselves with this taxpayer-funded debacle,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman. “The number of red flags about Solyndra that were raised along the way — many from within DOE — and either ignored or minimized by senior officials is astonishing.”
“What did Secretary Chu know about the situation at Solyndra, when did he know it, and how did he act on this information, if at all?” Upton asked.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) said, “I happen to continue to support a loan guarantee program for alternative energy . . . but I cannot continue to support it if we cannot get assurances that this is a history that is not going to be repeated.”
But Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, said that while an oversight investigation into the Solyndra loan was warranted, he objected to the way the inquiry was run by Upton and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the subcommittee of oversight and investigations.
“It is time for the Republicans to stop dancing on Solyndra’s grave and get serious about energy policy,” Waxman said.
In prepared remarks for the hearing of the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, Chu said pointedly that “we appreciate the support the loan programs have received from many members of Congress — including nearly 500 letters to the Department — who have urged us to accelerate our efforts and to fund worthy projects in their states.”
Opening the hearing, Stearns said it was “readily apparent that senior officials in the Obama administration put politics before stewardship of the taxpayers’ dollars.” He said the panel’s goal is to “determine why the department and the administration tied themselves so closely to Solyndra and why they are so desperate to prop up this company.”
Waxman charged that Republicans resisted release of exculpatory documents, provoked a “gratuitous conflict” with the White House and released “cherry-picked e-mails” that smeared an Obama fundraiser. He also called for rejection of what he described as the GOP’s “anti-science and anti-progress policies” promoted by their oil and coal industry allies.