The U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee has released a new 154-page report detailing its investigation into failed thin-film module manufacturer Solyndra and its $535 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
The document was released shortly after the committee approved the No More Solyndras Act, which was sent to the full House for consideration earlier this week.
In the report, the Republican-led committee reiterates several of its key points that frequently came up during the 18-month Solyndra investigation, which was led by Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns, R-Fla.
According to the report, President Barack Obama and his administration were aware of Solyndra's shortcomings from the beginning, but sought to make Solyndra a success for public-relations purposes.
The report also alleges once again that the administration ‘knowingly violated the law when it restructured the terms of the loan guarantee and subordinated taxpayers' interest to the interests of private investors.’
Those private investors include George Kaiser, whose foundation holds a stake in Solyndra. Kaiser has reportedly made substantial donations to Obama's re-election campaign.
During the Solyndra hearings, DOE officials overseeing the loan guarantee approval process have repeatedly denied ever having personal interaction with Kaiser or being pressured by the White House to give the company preferential treatment. However, the House Committee report re-states earlier claims that Kaiser played an active role in making decisions related to the company's loan guarantee.
‘Kaiser was closely involved in financial decisions related to Solyndra, often authorizing key disbursements and restructuring proposals, as well as in Solyndra's lobbying, public relations, and government procurement strategies in Washington,’ the committee says.
Additionally, the committee states that it has recently revealed a ‘startling relationship’ between Solyndra and Project Amp, a 752 MW, 750-rooftop rooftop PV initiative that received a finalized $1.4 billion loan guarantee in fall 2011, just before the program's sunset date.
Solyndra was initially selected as a component supplier for Project Amp. ‘DOE would later use the relationship between Project Amp and Solyndra as a key bargaining tool to push for a second restructuring while directly engaging in last minute negotiations between Solyndra and the Project Amp sponsor,’ the committee claims.
During several of the Solyndra hearings, the DOE and other witnesses have stated that the primary reason for Solyndra's failure was that its thin-film technology was not well-suited to effectively compete in an era of suddenly inexpensive polysilicon and manufacturing cost reductions for crystalline PV.
According to the report, however, the DOE ‘should have better anticipated the market challenges that contributed to Solyndra's financial condition.’
Congress' discussions of Solyndra have frequently devolved into partisan bickering, so it is no surprise that the report also reflects a split along party lines. Senior-level Democrats on Upton and Stearns' committees immediately released a statement challenging the committee majorities' conclusions.
‘The partisan, one-sided report, which was not shared with Democratic staff in advance, mischaracterizes the committee record, including information from administration officials on the Solyndra loan guarantee,’ stated Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette, D-Colo.
Waxman and DeGette called the report a ‘political document’ that ‘cherry picks documents, omits important exculpatory evidence, and contains unsubstantiated insinuations.’
The Democratic lawmakers described several of the reports' descriptions of the loan-guarantee approval and restructuring process as inaccurate and once again refuted claims that political contributors (e.g., Kaiser) influenced Solyndra-related decisions.
‘Republican politicians have spent over a year making wild allegations that the Solyndra loan was influenced by campaign contributions,’ Waxman and DeGette said. ‘There is not a shred of evidence to support these inflammatory accusations.’
Meanwhile, the committee's leadership insists its report provides a ‘complete picture of the facts and circumstances’ surrounding Solyndra's loan guarantee – and that it reveals wrongdoing.
‘Our investigation uncovered a political saga starring key White House officials and big Obama donors,’ Stearns said.