After a hearing and mark-up session that lasted several hours, the U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee passed the No More Solyndras Act by a vote of 29-19.
The legislation – introduced last month by Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., two central figures leading the epic Solyndra investigations – would phase out the U.S. Department of Energy's loan-guarantee program by prohibiting new applications.
The committee approved the legislation after adopting amendments from Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and Tim Murphy, R-Pa., that require the U.S. Government Accountability Office to complete a study of U.S. and foreign subsidies in energy markets.
The committee also adopted an amendment offered by Stearns to reaffirm the prohibition of subordination and an amendment from Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas, to increase penalties for senior federal employees and federal appointees who violate any requirements of the Title XVII loan-guarantee program.
Among the amendments that did not pass the committee were several offered by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., that would have prevented the awarding of loan guarantees to failing companies or companies whose projects are already over budget.
One Markey amendment would have prevented a loan guarantee from being awarded to companies that have been threatened with being delisted from a stock exchange. Another Markey amendment would have prevented loan guarantees from being awarded to companies that had either lost more than a net of $535 million in the last calendar year or those that applied for a loan guarantee for a project that is already more than $535 million over budget. The amendments were defeated along party lines.
Markey expressed frustration that"nothing in the No More Solyndras Act would preclude DOE from awarding any of 48 pending applications worth upwards of $62 billion that are currently in due diligence, nor the two nuclear projects worth $10.3 billion DOE has already conditionally approved."
"I encourage you to further examine the No More Solyndras Act in order to determine whether the legislation actually lives up to either its name or its stated goal," Markey wrote in a letter to several organizations." I additionally would welcome your organization's input regarding amendments that impose real constraints on the DOE's authority to award further loan guarantees to companies whose projects or finances indicate a potential taxpayer exposure far greater than that of Solyndra."
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) was also disappointed with the committee's passage of the bill, and said Congress should have made improvements to the loan-guarantee program rather than end it.
"Both Congress and the administration identified ways to improve the Department of Energy loan-guarantee program to ensure that taxpayer dollars are protected and used wisely," SEIA said in a statement." Unfortunately, the bill passed by the committee today disregards the significant economic and energy policy benefits associated with the program.
"We must improve and preserve the integrity of the DOE loan-guarantee program rather than hinder our nation's ability to develop innovative energy infrastructure projects," SEIA added.
The legislation now moves to the full U.S. House of Representatives for further consideration. More details on the No More Solyndras Act can be found here.