WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives voted to limit a controversial green-energy loan guarantee program Friday, dealing a blow to the Obama Administration, which expanded the program to give loans to companies such as Colorado’s Abound Solar.
The No More Solyndras Act (H.R. 6213) would prevent the Department of Energy from issuing new loans to company that seek to limit or contain air pollutants and greenhouse gases.
Although the legislation would allow the Energy Department to hand out $34 billion in loans to companies that received contracts before this year, its supporters said taxpayers would enjoy extra protection from squandered federal dollars.
“The sun has set on the Solyndra scandal, and it’s a good thing too,” Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) said of the California solar panel maker that declared bankruptcy last summer after receiving $530 million in federal loans. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich) chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sponsored the bill.
The vote was 245-161. Twenty-two Democrats joined 223 Republicans in supporting the bill, while 4 Republicans and 157 Democrats opposed it. Colorado House members split along strict party lines — four Republicans voted “aye” and three Democrats voted “no.”
The partisan tally of the House legislation contrasted with the bipartisan support the Energy Policy Act of 2005 received. With Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress, President George W. Bush signed into law a measure that contained a provision to give renewable energy companies incentives.
The provision was known as the 1703 loan guarantee program. When the Obama administration took office, it succeeded in winning passage for a new energy program under the $792 billion stimulus bill in 20009. This was known as the 1705 loan guarantee program. It gave federally-backed loans to companies whose green-energy projects were considered technologically innovative.
These companies included two solar manufacturers, Solyndra of Fremont, California and Abound Solar of Longmont, Colorado.
Solyndra received $530 million and Abound Solar $68 million. Both companies had major investors who have donated millions to President Obama, including Patricia Stryker, the CEO of Fort-Collins based Bohemian Companies.
Two congressional committees released reports this year that accused the Obama administration of making the loans to based as much on political considerations as market-based ones. One report showed that an Office of Management and Budget employee wrote in March 2009 that Solyndra was “not ready for prime time.”
In the text of the No More Solyndras Act, the sponsors said the investigation showed that the Energy Department and Office of Management and Budget’s review of the loan “was driven by politics and ideology and divorced from economic reality where the Department of Energy ignored concerns about the company’s financial condition and market for its products.”
Although the 1705 loan program expired, the 1703 program endures through contracts handed out through it before this year. Democrats acknowledge that both programs had flaws, but its leaders disagreed sharply with Republican descriptions of the loans as politically motivated.
“Shame on the majority for putting these blatantly false findings in the legislation,” Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) said on the House floor Friday.
The legislation now goes to the Senate, but supporters are not hopeful about its prospects there. “My guess is they won’t take it up,” Gardner said in an interview.