Wednesday, September 14, 2011

House probing $528M loan to failed solar company


The Obama administration's eagerness to deliver economic stimulus may have influenced a federal review of a loan to a now bankrupt solar panel manufacturer, a move that may have left taxpayers on the hook for a $528 million debt, House Republicans said Wednesday.

The panel examining the loan disclosed e-mails that appear to show senior staff at the White House Office of Management and Budget chafing about having to conduct "rushed approvals" of federal loan guarantees designed to help jumpstart the nation's renewable energy industry.

GOP lawmakers said the White House had scheduled a groundbreaking for Solyndra Inc. even before the Department of Energy had submitted its final paperwork on the terms of the loan to the OMB.

"We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews and have the approval set the date for the announcement rather than the other way around," said one of the emails from an unnamed OMB aide to the office of Vice President Joe Biden.

Solyndra was cited by President Barack Obama as an example of how the economic stimulus bill would increase employment through investments in renewable energy. But it couldn't compete with foreign manufacturers of solar panels in the U.S. and the European market dried up. It has filed for bankruptcy, laying off 1,100 workers. Shortly after the filing, FBI officials raided the company's headquarters in Fremont, Calif. The company said the FBI was seeking records on the loans.

Republican lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee's investigations panel are questioning why there was a rush to approve the loan and whether the entire loan guarantee program is warranted.