US Republicans 'party' after House passage of 'No More Solyndras Act'

15. September 2012 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By:  Cheryl Kaften

U.S. Republicans hailed the bipartisan approval of the "No More Solyndras Act" by the House of Representatives on Friday, September 14, characterizing the bill as "a commonsense solution that will protect taxpayers and encourage a more robust energy future."

Solyndra

Solyndra's failure is being used by the Republicans in their fight against Obama's Administration.

However, during a vitriolic, 90-minute debate on the House floor leading up to the 245-161 vote, the legislation was dubbed the "No More Innovations Act" by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (Democrat-Illinois), ranking member of the Energy and Power Subcommittee, who bitterly predicted, "This bill will never become law; it will die before it reaches the Senate front door." 

All but 4 House Republicans who were present for the vote championed the bill; 22 Democrats broke ranks to vote with their colleagues across the aisle.

The blame game

The legislation was introduced in July following an 18-month highly politicized and publicized investigation into the spectacular failure of the Fremont, California-based thin film solar start-up company, Solyndra.

The Republican inquiry, which was spearheaded by Rep. Cliff Stearns (Republican–Florida), outgoing chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, sought to establish that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) had improperly granted a US$535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra; and, following the company’s bankruptcy and subsequent restructuring, had illegally subordinated taxpayer dollars by repaying private investors first

In addition, in the run-up to the 2012 U.S. presidential election, the probe has been used by the Republicans to hector the current Administration with claims of financial mismanagement, lack of transparency, and partisan decision-making.

Overall, the measure would prevent the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) from using the $34 billion remaining in its loan guarantee budget to process applications submitted after December 31, 2011. What’s more, applications received before 2012 would not be approved unless a review by the Treasury Department could verify that they make financial sense.

The Democrats have claimed that the bill precludes any support for next-generation renewable energy projects, while it continues to advance nuclear and fossil fuel initiatives that already are in the queue. Their allegations were inadvertently supported on Friday by a comment made by U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (Republican-Michigan) from the floor: "What we need is a Keystone economy, not a Solyndra economy."

Debate but no dialogue

By and large, discussion on the floor exemplified the governmental gridlock that has persisted for the past 4 years, much to the annoyance of the American public.

"This is a nonsensical piece of legislation that accomplishes nothing, except to try to vindicate a faulty investigation," complained Rep. John Dingell (Democrat-Michigan). "The Republicans have been throwing subpoenas around like rice at a wedding, but they have not accomplished anything."

Stearns rebuffed him, stating, "When…Solyndra was out of cash in the autumn of 2010, the Obama Administration doubled down on its bad debt, restructuring Solyndra's loan in early 2011 and putting wealthy investors at the front of the line of taxpayers, which was a clear violation of the ‘Energy Policy Act.’"

"The facts simply do not support the over-the-top allegations that there was anything wrong," argued Rep. Diana DeGette (Democrat–Colorado), who introduced an amendment (defeated 226-163) to change the "Findings" section of the bill, on the basis of the fact that, in the United States, subordination in bankruptcy restructuring is legal. "Shame on the majority for putting blatantly false information into the bill," she said.

Going down in defeat

In addition, a last-minute amendment broached by Rep. Edward Markey (Democrat–Massachusetts), which would have reinstated the Production Tax Credit for wind energy before it is due to expire at year-end 2012 – and also would have imposed a 75% domestic content mandate for all equipment used on projects funded by loan guarantees – went down in defeat, 174-235. Markey warned that, unless the House moved to "level the playing field for wind energy," the nation would lose 40,000 jobs in the next year.

As the expected outcome of the day materialized, Henry Waxman (Democrat-California), ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and one of the most influential liberal members of Congress, commented, "The whole point of that loan guarantee program is to support innovative technologies," adding, "This is all a sham. The Republicans are dancing on the grave of Solyndra."

DeGette agreed, calling the bill "disappointing legislation" and an obvious "attempt to keep Solyndra in the news."

Later in the day, Ryan Alexander, president of Washington, DC-based Taxpayers for Common Sense, commented, "Today, House lawmakers passed the fatally flawed ‘No More Solyndras Act.’ enabling tens of billions of dollars in high-risk, costly loan guarantees to move forward. Instead of fulfilling its promise, this misleadingly named bill will allow the loan guarantee applications [to] go forward for projects as reckless as the uranium enrichment facility for the near-bankrupt United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC); and an $8 billion nuclear reactor project for [the Atlanta-based] Southern Company, [which] has experienced numerous cost overruns. To truly protect taxpayers, all loan guarantees must stop. This bill misses the mark and jeopardizes billions of taxpayer dollars."


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