UPDATE: House Energy committee votes to cut DOE loan guarantee program

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 29-19 to pass H.R. 6213, also known as the No More Solyndras Act, aimed at curtailing the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) loan guarantee program. The bill now moves on to the U.S. House of Representatives for full consideration.

Several representatives, including Gene Green of Texas and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, presented amendments to the bill allowing a review of and alternatives for the loan guarantee program, but all were voted down. The committe did adopt amendments from Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) requiring the U.S. Government Accountability Office to complete a study of U.S. and foreign subsidies in energy markets. Two more amendments to reaffirm the prohibition of subordination and to increase penalties for senior federal employees and federal appointees who violate any requirements of the loan guarantee program.

The Subcommittee on Energy and Power voted 14-6 on July 25 to pass the No More Solyndras Act. It would prevent the DOE from issuing loan guarantees on applications received after the end of 2011, and sets new restrictions on existing applications and loans, according to The Hill.

The legislation was co-authored by committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL).

The bill was named for failed rooftop solar manufacturer Solyndra, which received a $535 million loan guarantee from the DOE in 2009 but filed for bankruptcy in August 2011. The DOE said in a blog that the company’s failure was in part due to lower subsidies for solar cells in Europe that led to a 25 percent drop in solar panel prices. Four other solar manufacturers have filed for bankruptcy as well, but not all of them received loan guarantees from the DOE.

The Energy and Power subcommittee said in a release that it received letters and statements in support of the end of the loan guarantee program. The committee also released a report questioning the legality of he DOE’s decision to put Solyndra’s investors ahead of taxpayers when the loan was restructured before the bankruptcy filing.

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said the loans were used for more than just solar projects.

“The loan program has been utilized on a bipartisan basis to leverage private capital to promote transportation, health care, education, housing and energy infrastructure policies,” Resch said. “The provision in the discussion draft that sunsets DOE’s loan program would hinder our nation’s ability to develop innovative energy infrastructure projects.

“The loan guarantee program has yielded notable successes,” Resch continued. “In solar alone, the program is providing crucial financing to support the construction of 11 utility-scale solar power plants in the Southwest that will produce 2,700 megawatts of safe, clean power – enough to power 630,000 homes.”

The legislation must now be voted on in the full committee, which is led by Upton.

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