OVERNIGHT ENERGY: High noon for Chu on Solyndra

The Energy Department has sought to get out in front of the hearing. Chu previewed his testimony in an interview with NPR earlier this week and the department released excerpts of the secretary’s prepared remarks Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Energy Department spokesman Damien LaVera launched a Twitter account this week just in time to combat Republican attacks.
ADVERTISEMENT

Later Wednesday, the committee released Chu's full written testimony. Chu will sound a familiar alarm about the dangers of not investing in clean energy. He’ll also insist that the Solyndra loan guarantee was “subject to proper, rigorous scrutiny.”

Chu will take full responsibility for the decision to grant the loan guarantee, and strongly deny allegations of political influence.

"As the Secretary of Energy, the final decisions on Solyndra were mine, and I made them with the best interest of the taxpayer in mind. I want to be clear: over the course of Solyndra’s loan guarantee, I did not make any decision based on political considerations," he will say.

"My decision to guarantee a loan to Solyndra was based on the analysis of experienced professionals and on the strength of the information they had available to them at the time."

The Obama administration says that politics played no role in the Solyndra loan guarantee, insisting that it was approved on its merits. So far, Republicans’ Solyndra investigation has not uncovered the smoking gun the GOP is looking for.

But emails released in recent months show that there was disagreement within the administration on the wisdom of approving the loan guarantee, an issue that is sure to come up at Thursday’s hearing.

Committee Republicans also released a memo Tuesday that suggests the administration pressed Solyndra to delay a 2010 lay-off announcement until after the midterm elections.


NEWS BITES:

Democrats hope to counter Republican Solyndra claims

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee plan to aggressively counter Republican attacks on Chu at Thursday's hearing.

They are circulating a detailed memo aimed at rebutting Republican allegations of political influence.

It cites a series of interviews with administration officials, who said "they had no reason to believe decisions regarding the Solyndra loan guarantee were based on political contributions" from George Kaiser, an Obama fundraiser.

Kaiser's foundation was a major investor in Solyndra.

Democrats also plan to tout a letter written by Mary Anne Sullivan, former Energy Department general counsel during the Clinton administration, that says the department's decision to restructure the loan guarantee in February was legal. The letter supports the conclusions made by DOE Chief Counsel Susan Richardson in a February memo that justifies the restructuring.

The restructuring agreement put private investors — who injected more money into the struggling company — ahead of taxpayers to be repaid in the event that Solyndra went under, a move that Republicans say was illegal.

Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, acknowledged Wednesday that his attempts to counter Republicans' Solyndra claims won't stop the GOP investigation any time soon. He predicted that Chu's appearance won't mark the end of the probe.

"They want to keep this non-issue alive as long as possible for political purposes," he said in the Capitol.

Isakson amendment would prevent 'subordination' in loan guarantees

Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonProgressive group backs Senate candidates in Georgia, Iowa Overnight Health Care: Trump budget calls for cutting Medicaid, ACA by T | Trump proposes removing FDA authority over tobacco | Lawmakers frustrated by lack of emergency funds for coronavirus Anti-abortion group backs Loeffler's election campaign after opposing her Senate appointment MORE (R-Ga.) introduced an amendment to energy spending legislation Wednesday that would prevent the Energy Department from subordinating the interest of the taxpayer to those of private investors when structuring loan guarantee deals.

The amendment is intended to ensure that private investors are not repaid before taxypayers if a company goes under.

A February restructuring of Solyndra’s $535 million loan guarantee subordinated the taxpayers’ interest to those of investors who agreed to inject more cash into the struggling company. Republicans have blasted the restructuring, arguing it runs afoul of a 2005 energy law.

"Like many Americans, I am outraged that the administration would issue a very questionable loan guarantee — to the tune of $535 million — on the backs of taxpayers," Isakson said in a statement. "I am even more astounded that when it appeared Solyndra was going into default, the administration took proactive steps and forced taxpayers to take a backseat to private investors in being repaid."

State Department establishes energy bureau

The State Department established Wednesday the Bureau of Energy Resources to ensure that “all our diplomatic relationships advance our interest in having access to secure, reliable, and ever-cleaner sources of energy.”

The bureau has three goals, according to a State Department statement:

• “To manage the geopolitics of today’s energy economy through vigorous diplomacy with producers and consumers. This is critical to promote adequate and affordable supplies of energy and to keep energy markets stable.”

• “To stimulate market forces for transformational policies in alternative energy, electricity, development and reconstruction. This creates market demand for green technologies and products where the U.S. has a competitive advantage."

• “To increase access to energy in developing countries, expand good governance, and deepen transparency. This helps developing economies find commercially and environmentally sustainable paths out of poverty.”

Read more about the bureau here and here.

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Lobbying world Pelosi-Trump relationship takes turn for the terrible MORE ramps up GOP drilling push

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Lobbying world Pelosi-Trump relationship takes turn for the terrible MORE (R-Ohio) will appear with a pair of GOP committee chairmen Thursday to tout proposals that would funnel revenues from expanded oil-and-gas development into infrastructure projects.

Boehner will appear at a press conference with Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and Natural Resources Chairman Doc HastingsRichard (Doc) Norman HastingsCongress just resolved a 20-year debate over Neolithic remains Boehner hires new press secretary GOP plots new course on Endangered Species Act reform MORE (R-Wash.) to promote the plan.

“I think it will be one of the major jobs proposals to come out of Congress and hopefully we can get it done and get people working and get some energy at reasonable prices,” Mica told reporters in the Capitol Wednesday.

The plan mandates a huge expansion of offshore oil-and-gas leasing that includes areas off the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, and opens Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling rigs.

The offshore and ANWR drilling plans face huge Senate hurdles. But Republicans are using the bill as a messaging vehicle, and a Boehner aide said the package is expected on the floor before the end of the year.

Sen. Whitehouse floats climate adaptation plan

Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats pan Trump's budget proposal as 'dead on arrival' Trump unveils .8 trillion budget that backtracks on deal with Congress End of impeachment trial to leave deep scars in Senate MORE (D-R.I.), backed by outdoor recreation and green groups, introduced a bill Wednesday that would require natural resource agencies to plan for the long-term effects of climate change.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Safeguarding America’s Future and Environment Act is co-sponsored by Sen. Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBaucus backing Biden's 2020 bid Bottom line Overnight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms MORE (D-Mont.), who like Whitehouse is on the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Here’s a description of the bill from Whitehouse’s office:

"The SAFE Act would establish planning requirements and identify specific federal programs through which natural resource adaptation would be undertaken. The proposed legislation would require the development of a coordinated national adaptation strategy. It would also encourage, but not require, state-specific adaptation plans. This planning would help government agencies reduce their long-term costs by determining how to most effectively protect and conserve our country’s natural resources in a changing climate. Rhode Island has already undertaken such an effort by creating a Climate Change Commission to prepare for a changing climate within the state."

Oil prices hit $100

“Oil prices hit $100 a barrel on Wednesday after a six-week surge that may drive gasoline prices higher in coming months and slow the fragile economic recovery,” The Associated Press reports.


ON TAP THURSDAY:

Senate panel to review Interior mining plans

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will examine the Interior Department's controversial plan to fold its Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement into its larger Bureau of Land Management. Top Interior officials will testify. More here.

EPA science comes under the microscope

A panel of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on “fostering quality science at EPA.”

Witnesses include Paul Anastas, who heads EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Energy Innovation summit comes to DC

Speakers at the Energy Innovation 2011 summit include the head of the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDemocrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump Poll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE (D-Colo.). More here.

Green intelligence forum continues

Thursday brings the second day of The Atlantic’s Green Intelligence Forum, which is looking at “creating the sustainable city of the future.” More here.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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

— Chu: Final Solyndra decisions were mine
— Salazar on GOP attacks: ‘Hey, it is political season’
— Energy secretary: Solyndra loan ‘was subject to proper, rigorous scrutiny’
— Administration announces tighter vehicle fuel-economy standards
— Bingaman: Eliminate provision requiring strategic oil sale
— Chu: Solyndra loan unrelated to fundraiser
— Obama: Cutting carbon emissions is ‘good for our economies’

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


Follow us on Twitter: @E2Wire, @AndrewRestuccia, @Ben_Geman