Rep. Issa threatens Chu with subpoena

Energy Secretary Steven Chu could face a subpoena if he does not testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the next 60 days on his department’s loan program, the panel’s chairman said Monday.

Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a letter that he has been negotiating with the Energy Department for six months to secure a date for Chu to testify. Issa called on the department to voluntarily agree to a date for Chu to testify in the next two months or he would “be forced to consider the use of compulsory process.”

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The Energy Department offered to make lower-level officials, including deputy secretary Daniel Poneman, available for the planned hearing on the loan guarantee program and energy spending under the 2009 stimulus law. But Issa said he wants Chu to testify.

“I am amazed that your staff thinks you are not qualified to discuss DOE’s Recovery Act-related work,” Issa wrote to Chu in the letter dated Feb. 2 that was released Monday.

“While some have questioned your ability to manage DOE’s broad responsibilities, I believe that as Secretary of DOE you are best suited to discuss an ‘extremely broad topic’ that involves many facets of DOE activity.”

Issa gave the Energy Department two suggested hearing dates: March 7 and March 28. 

"The American people have a right to know why DOE, under your leadership, has wasted billions of dollars of their money," he said.

Issa is investigating the department’s loan guarantee program, which is aimed at boosting energy projects that might otherwise have difficulty obtaining private financing. The program was authorized in 2005 and expanded in the 2009 stimulus law.

Issa's investigation is focused on the program more broadly, while the House Energy and Commerce Committee is specifically probing the $535 million loan guarantee to solar panel firm Solyndra that declared bankruptcy in September.

Chu testified before a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel on the Solyndra loan guarantee in November.


A DOE spokeswoman said the department has gone to great lengths to cooperate with congressional investigators, providing thousands of pages of documents and hours of testimony.

"Nevertheless, we are working with [Issa's] staff to find a suitable date and witness for the Committee’s latest hearing request," spokeswoman Jen Stutsman said. "The Secretary continues to hope for a constructive dialogue with members in both parties on how American workers can compete for the growing, $260 billion global clean energy industry."

—This story was updated at 4:45 p.m.