Democrat Says Issa Hasn’t Shown ‘ Scandal’ in Energy Loans
Republicans in Congress failed to show evidence after reviewing more than 300,000 pages of documents that an Energy Department loan program was driven by political favoritism, a Democrat on the House Oversight Committee said.
Representative Darrell Issa, the Republican-led House’s chief investigator, started 11 investigations into the department in the past year based on “unsubstantiated allegations that proved inaccurate,” Representative Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the oversight committee, said in a letter to Issa, the panel’s chairman.
The committee is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow on the loan-guarantee program, with Energy Secretary Steven Chu set to testify.
Cumming’s letter doesn’t address new allegations from Issa that the Energy Department may have cut corners in awarding $1.6 billion loan guarantees to two solar projects in California and Arizona.
“From the outset of the Obama administration’s energy loan programs, red flags were raised about the risk to taxpayers, and a process open to mismanagement, abuse and missed opportunities -- with taxpayers underwriting the risk and paying the bill,” Issa said in a statement.
Antelope Valley Project
The committee released a June 23, 2011, e-mail from Dong Kim, the chief engineer of the Energy Department’s loan program, saying a technology used for the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch project wasn’t innovative.
Projects had to use technology that wasn’t commercially available to be eligible for awards.
An Aug. 4, 2010, memo from Kim said a review by the technical division about two months earlier found that Antelope and the Agua Caliente project did include “new and innovative components.”
Among the Issa accusations Cummings cites is a complaint that Chu is selecting officials to serve on an advisory panel on hydraulic fracturing who were anti-industry. The drilling technique, also known as fracking, injects water, sand and chemicals underground to free natural gas. Environmentalists say the process threatens drinking water.
Cummings said four of the seven subcommittee members had ties to the energy industry. While the panel’s report said drillers should disclose the chemicals they use to frack, it found that the risk of the fluid leaking up to drinking water sources was remote.
The letter also notes comments Issa made on television on Sept. 20, 2011, that the loan guarantee program was a “broad scandal” that led to corruption.
By then, Solyndra LLC had filed for bankruptcy protection, two years after winning a $535 million U.S. loan guarantee to build solar panels.
“The committee has identified no evidence that the department’s decisions were the result of political favoritism or corruption,” Cummings wrote in the letter.
Jeffrey Solsby, a Republican spokesman for the committee, said Cummings mischaracterized the committee’s work.
Sending “this freakish missive on energy loans speaks volumes about his own deficiencies as a congressional investigator,” Solsby said in an e-mail.
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