POLITICS -- November 17, 2011 at 1:04 PM EDT
Chu Tells Lawmakers Solyndra Decisions Were Not Based on 'Political Considerations'
Energy Secretary Steven Chu prepares to testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Capitol Hill Feb. 16, 2011. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a House panel Thursday that politics did not play a role in his decision to approve a $535 million loan guarantee for the now-defunct solar panel manufacturer, Solyndra.
"As the secretary of energy, the final decisions on Solyndra were mine, and I made them with the best interests of the taxpayer in mind," Chu told members of the House Energy and Commerce.
"And I want to be clear. Over the course of Solyndra's loan guarantee, I did not make any decision based on political considerations. My decision to guarantee a loan to Solyndra was based on the analysis of professional -- experienced professionals and on the strength of the information they had available to them at the time."
Solyndra, which had been touted by the Obama administration as a model of its clean energy program, filed for bankruptcy last September.
Chu also testified that he was unaware of predictions by Energy Department staffers in 2009 that Solyndra was likely to face cash flow issues.
Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., who heads the subcommittee on investigations, pressed Chu: "Were you aware that your own staff that worked for you was predicting bankruptcy in 2011 prophetically, two years? Yes or no?"
"It wasn't predicting bankruptcy of the company," Chu responded. "It was predicting a cash flow issue that, upon further analysis, did not appear. And in fact, it did not appear in reality."
Chu also defended his endorsement of a restructuring of Solyndra's debt that put private investors ahead of taxpayers for repayment in the event of default. He said the choice was either to stop the loan and force Solyndra into immediate bankruptcy, or continue with the contract, and give the company "a fighting chance" of surviving.
Chu said that decision was made with the hope of recouping some losses, but he indicated Thursday that he does not expect taxpayers to be able to recover much of the money from the deal.
Read more on the politics surrounding Chu's testimony in Thursday's Morning Line.