House Dems to Republicans: What about nuclear loan guarantees?


By Andrew Restuccia
The Hill

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee pressed Republicans Wednesday to broaden their loan guarantee investigation to include investments in nuclear energy projects.

Republicans are"picking oversight targets based on which administration approved the loan or loan guarantee or on whether [they] approve or disapprove of the type of energy produced," the Democrats said.

"The Committee’s goal should be to protect the taxpayer, not to single out an industry you may disfavor for special scrutiny," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, said in a letter to Republicans Wednesday.

Committee Republicans have focused much of their attention on the $535 million loan guarantee to the failed California solar panel maker Solyndra. But Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), the chairman of the committee’s investigative panel, has expanded the investigation to include a number of other loans and loan guarantees to renewable energy projects.

The letter – which was also signed by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), the top Democrat on the committee’s investigative panel, and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) – calls on Republicans to expand the investigation to include nuclear loan guarantees as well as a $267 million loan approved by the George W. Bush administration to a communications company that filed for bankruptcy this month.

"Oversight should be conducted with an even hand," the letter said."That requires giving a failed multi-million-dollar loan issued by the Bush Administration as much attention as failed multi-million-dollar loan guarantee issued by the Obama Administration. And it requires giving DOE nuclear loan guarantees as much scrutiny as DOE renewable energy loan guarantees."

Democrats want Republicans to examine the Energy Department’s decision last year to issue a conditional commitment for an $8.33 billion loan guarantee for construction of a Georgia nuclear plant. The Energy Department has also issued a conditional commitment for a $2 billion loan guarantee for an Idaho uranium enrichment project sponsored by Areva.

"From a taxpayer perspective, there is no reason to ignore the nuclear loan guarantees," the letter says. "Nuclear power companies are slated to receive loans significantly larger than the loan received by Solyndra."

Waxman, DeGette and Markey have long criticized the administration for moving forward with the nuclear loan guarantees, arguing it could leave the taxpayer on the hook for billions of dollars if the projects collapse.

The Democrats also call on Republicans to examine a $267 million Agriculture Department loan offered in 2008 and finalized in 2009 shortly before President George W. Bush left office. The loan to Colorado-based Open Range Communications was intended to provide rural communities with broadband Internet access.

The company filed for bankruptcy earlier this month.

"When Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in September, you issued press releases trumpeting the bankruptcy and said, ‘We smelled a rat from the onset’ and Solyndra was a ‘bad bet from the beginning,’" the letter said, referring to comments by Republicans on the committee.

"Your concern was to ‘protect American taxpayers’ and to examine whether there had been ‘disregard for taxpayer dollars.’ You made no similar comments when Open Range filed for bankruptcy."

The Democrats allege that Republicans did not investigate the Open Range Communications loan because it was approved during the Bush administration.

"The main distinction between the Solyndra guarantee and the Open Range loan appears to be that the Open Range loan was approved in 2008, when President Bush was in office," the letter said."That is not a defensible reason for ignoring Open Range."

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