Energy

Lawmakers Trash DOE Official For Withholding Green Loan Documents

(REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

House lawmakers sharply criticized the head of the Department of Energy’s green energy loan program for not releasing documents requested by a committee looking into companies that have received taxpayer dollars.

“It is disconcerting that the executive director of a major government program is unwilling to commit — to actually commit — to providing all the documents that an investigation committee of the Congress has requested,” California Republican Rep. [crscore]Dana Rohrabacher[/crscore] told Mark McCall, the head of the DOE’s loan office, in a hearing Thursday, “and that the answer being given is using weasel words — is what we used to call them in the press.”

Rohrabacher was not the only lawmaker to have strong words for McCall. Georgia Republican Rep. [crscore]Barry Loudermilk[/crscore] also criticized the DOE’s refusal to release documents requested by the House science committee.

“This committee welcomes and embraces new businesses and technologies with open arms, but it is important that these technologies be brought to commercial scale by market forces, not political whims,” Loudermilk said at the hearing, referring to politically-connected companies, like Solyndra, that went bankrupt after getting taxpayer-backed green loans.

House committee members are specifically asking for emails from DOE loan office staffers regarding companies that got subsidized loans. The former loan office head, Jonathan Silver, resigned after it was discovered he used a personal email account to conduct official business and may have lobbied for politically-favored projects to get loans.

For example, Silver’s emails showed he and another DOE official were pushing the Treasury Department to move more quickly to approve a $400 million loan guarantee for Abound Solar — which filed for bankruptcy in 2012 after drawing down on $70 million from taxpayers.

A Daily Caller News Foundation later exposed Abound for taking taxpayer dollars while knowingly selling solar panels that routinely caught fire, and for possibly misleading lenders to get an influx of cash.

“It’s more than unbecoming, it’s depressing to see that someone of your stature will take that approach instead of just saying ‘yes, we will provide all the documents to an investigative body of Congress that they have requested,’” Rohrabacher said.

While McCall agreed Congress played an important oversight role, the DOE official would not commit to providing lawmakers with any of the requested documents.

“We will review the request and see what is responsive,” McCall said when asked by Loudermilk about committing to handing over documents to Congress.

Coincidentally, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report Thursday highlighting the continued management problems the DOE is having with its green loan program.

Last year, the GAO reported the green loan program would cost taxpayers $2.2 billion on net in credit subsidy costs along with $312 million in administrative costs. In total, the DOE has handed out $30 billion in subsidized loans to green energy companies.

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