Business, Finance & Economics

Emails raise new questions about solar company touted by White House

Newly released emails have raised new questions about a 2009 federal loan guarantee made to the solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra.

The Washington Post obtained the emails on Tuesday, and reports that they show the Obama White House "tried to rush federal reviewers for a decision on a nearly half-billion-dollar loan to the solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra so Vice President Biden could announce the approval at a September 2009 groundbreaking for the company’s factory."

Solyndra abruptly shut down in late August, leaving taxpayers liable for the $535 million loan. Last week, FBI agents searched the company's headquarters in Silicon Valley.

The Post reports that the August 2009 emails show one Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official expressing concern about “the time pressure we are under to sign-off on Solyndra" and another complaining that “[t]here isn’t time to negotiate.”

According to The New York Times, Republican staff members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released the emails in a memorandum on Wednesday, where they argued that the documents “raise questions as to whether the Solyndra loan guarantee was pushed to approval before it was ready in order for the Administration to highlight the stimulus, and whether additional time might have resulted in stronger mitigation of the risks presented by the deal.”

The Times reports that officials at both the Energy Department’s loan office and the OMB defended their decisions at a committee hearing Wednesday. Jonathan Silver, executive director of energy loan programs, said that Solyndra's loan guarantee had originated during the Bush administration's final year.

“In fact, by the time the Obama administration took office in late January 2009, the loan programs staff had already established a goal of, and timeline for, issuing the company a conditional loan guarantee commitment in March 2009,” Silver said, according to the Times.

But Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) pushed back against Silver's testimony.

“Only after the Obama administration took control, and the stimulus passed, was the Solyndra deal pushed through,” Stearns said.

Meanwhile, the White House also responded to the emails' release.

"What the emails make clear is there was urgency to make a decision on a scheduling matter," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One, according to The Wall Street Journal. "People were simply looking for answers about whether or not people could move forward."