White House orders independent review of Energy-loan program

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said on Friday that the administration is ordering an independent analysis of the Energy Department program that gave a $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra, the bankrupt solar-energy company that is already facing an FBI probe.

The move is one of the most explicit acknowledgements from the White House to date that the Energy Department's loan-guarantee program deserves scrutiny. At a press conference earlier this month, President Obama defended the program despite Solyndra's downfall.

"The president is committed to investing in clean energy because he understands that the jobs developing and manufacturing these technologies will either be created here or in other countries," Daley said in a statement. "And while we continue to take steps to make sure the United States remains competitive in the 21st-century energy economy, we must also ensure that we are strong stewards of taxpayer dollars."

The 60-day review will be conducted by former Assistant Treasury Secretary Herb Allison, who was charged with helping stabilize the financial sector and oversaw the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

White House officials said that following the 60-day review, Allison will issue a public report to the administration that includes an evaluation of the current state of the loan-guarantee program, recommendations to improve monitoring and management of the program, and the establishment of an early-warning system to identify potential concerns in the future.

Meanwhile, House Republicans next week plan to continue their investigation of the program. The Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee is scheduled to vote on Thursday to subpoena the White House for internal West Wing communications on Solyndra after White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler refused to turn over all documents last month.

"Subpoenaing the White House is a serious step that, unfortunately, appears necessary in light of the Obama administration's stonewall on Solyndra," Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Oversight and Investigations Chairman Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., said in a joint statement on Friday.

House Republicans are seeking all White House communications dating back to President Obama's inauguration in January 2009.

That request "implicates longstanding and significant institutional Executive Branch confidentiality interests," Ruemmler said in a letter to the GOP leaders on Oct. 14. "Encroaching upon these important interests is not necessary, however, because the agency documents the committee has requested, which include communications with the White House, should satisfy the committee."

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will take the hot seat on Nov. 17, the next scheduled hearing on Solyndra. The documents Republicans are seeking from the White House will be critical to the hearing, which will focus on DOE's approval of Solyndra's loan in 2009 and the decision to restructure the loan in February 2011.

Republicans allege that the Energy Department violated the Energy Policy Act of 2005 when it restructured Solyndra's loan and made the government's debt obligation secondary-or "subordinate"-to that of private investors, including a foundation founded by oil billionaire George Kaiser, a major 2008 bundler for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

While some of Stearns's GOP colleagues on the committee have said Chu should resign over Solyndra, Stearns is not quite ready to "commit" to that yet.

"I think before I commit on this, I'd like to hear from him personally," Stearns said on CSPAN's Washington Journal last week. "One of his counsel has indicated their interpretation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 is that they could subordinate … so let's hear their side before we make a judgment on Secretary Chu."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.