OVERNIGHT ENERGY: GOP showdown set with Chu on Solyndra

State of Play: Energy Secretary Steven Chu is slated to testify in front of a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel Nov. 17.

"We have offered a number of dates in November. Committee staff indicated that November 17 will work, and the Secretary will be there," Energy Department spokesman Damien LaVera said.

Republicans on the committee’s investigative panel will face off with Chu over a $535 million loan guarantee to the now-bankrupt California solar firm Solyndra.

GOP lawmakers will focus on Chu’s decision to greenlight the February restructuring of the loan guarantee, which put private investors ahead of the taxpayer in the event that Solyndra went under.

Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in early September after laying off 1,100 workers and suspending its solar panel manufacturing operations.

"Secretary Chu looks forward to the opportunity to appear before the committee and highlight the steps we are taking to ensure American workers and innovators can compete in the global clean energy market," LaVera said.

Republicans on the committee confirmed the hearing Thursday night.

"We appreciate Secretary Chu making himself available and look forward to hearing his testimony on DOE’s involvement with the half-billion dollar loan to Solyndra," Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), the Energy and Commerce Committee's Solyndra pointman, said in a statement. "We hope he will finally provide answers about why DOE consciously ignored the direct warnings from their own experts that Solyndra was doomed to fail, and granted the loan to Solyndra."

Stearns said Tuesday that he hoped to hear testimony next week from Susan Richardson, chief counsel for the Energy Department Loan Programs Office.

Richardson authored a February memo that made the case that the restructuring did not violate a 2005 energy law that established the Energy Department loan guarantee program. Republicans have alleged that the restructuring does in fact violate the law.

While the Chu showdown looms in three weeks, the details of next week’s hearing are unclear. LaVera told The Hill Thursday that the committee has not yet extended a formal invitation to Richardson.

“Details for future hearings — including the range of potential witnesses — will be announced when they are available,” Energy Committee spokesman Sean Bonyun said.


Rep. Pompeo prepping bill to eliminate energy tax breaks: Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) plans to introduce legislation next week that will eliminate a slew of tax breaks for the solar, wind, oil, coal and nuclear industries.

“The Solyndra scandal has demonstrated the danger of government interference in energy markets,” Pompeo said in a Dear Colleague letter he is circulating in an effort to gain support for the bill. “[The legislation] is a reasonable approach to ending the decades-long practice of trying to pick winners and losers.”

In the letter, which was obtained by The Hill, Pompeo says the bill would save $90 billion over the next decade.

The legislation — known as the “Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act” — would repeal the following tax credits, according to the letter:

• Plug-In electric and fuel cell vehicles
• Alternative fuel and alternative fuel mixtures
• Cellulosic Biofuel Producer Credit
• Alternative fuel infrastructure
• Production Tax Credit for electricity produced from renewable sources, including wind, biomass and hydropower
• Investment Tax Credit for equipment powered by solar, fuel cells, geothermal or other specified renewable sources
• Enhanced oil recovery credit, and credit for producing oil and gas from marginal wells
• Advanced Nuclear Power Generation Credit
• Clean coal investment credits

A top wind industry official bashed the legislation Thursday, focusing her anger on a provision in the bill that would eliminate the Production Tax Credit for the renewable sector.

“Changing the tax code to in effect raise taxes on companies creating these American jobs would be a mistake that would cost our economy exactly the sort of manufacturing jobs we need more of today,” American Wind Energy Association President Denise Bode said in a statement.

United Nations: Elimination of lead in gasoline saved 1.2 million lives: The United Nations Environment Programme claimed victory Thursday in its fight to eliminate the use of lead in gasoline, arguing that the move has saved 1.2 million lives.

The U.N. says 185 countries no longer put lead in gasoline and that six more — Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, North Korea, Myanmar and Yemen — are expected to follow suit.

“This is a huge victory for children and families worldwide,” Natural Resources Defense Council Executive Director Peter Lehner said in a statement. “Saying goodbye to lead in gas has opened the door to improved health and economic benefits for communities all across the globe.”

Actor Strathairn joins anti-Keystone pipeline effort: Now it’s a trend: well-respected character actors do not like the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Actor David Strathairn has released a video urging people to attend the Nov. 6 demonstration at the White House against TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline project.

From the video:

President Obama ran for office speaking of the dangers of our fossil fuel addiction, promising to fight climate change and fully embrace a clean energy future. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a dangerous step away from that commitment. This is President Obama’s decision to make: yes or no to this dangerous pipeline.

Strathairn’s roles include an Oscar-nominated turn as Edward R. Murrow in 2005’s "Good Night, and Good Luck"; ethically challenged CIA official Noah Vosen in 2007’s "The Bourne Ultimatum"; and roles in several John Sayles films.

He follows Oscar-nominated actor Mark Ruffalo, who is also urging participation in the Nov. 6 demonstration that will call on President Obama to reject the pipeline proposal.

Robert Redford and Alec Baldwin also oppose the pipeline, as does Daryl Hannah, who was arrested at an anti-Keystone demonstration outside the White House in late August.


Here's a quick roundup of Thursday's E2 stories:

— Kerry vows to leave ‘no question unanswered’ on Keystone pipeline
— Romney tied to former Solyndra lobbyist
— Gulf spill fund chief tells lawmakers to blame him for problems, not Obama
— EPA on cusp of Keystone pipeline comments
— Feinberg to increase payments to Gulf shrimpers hit hard by oil spill
— Issa probes potential Energy Department loan to steel company
— Murkowski: Interior’s mining overhaul needs Capitol Hill sign-off

Please send tips and comments to Ben Geman, ben.geman@thehill.com, and Andrew Restuccia, arestuccia@thehill.com.

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This story was updated at 9:17 p.m.