The Solyndra loan scandal has claimed its first scalp. Just hours after President Obama reiterated his defense of the program responsible for awarding a $535 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan to the failed solar company, the Department of Energy announced that the executive director of that program is stepping down:
Jonathan Silver, who was named executive director of DOE’s Loan Programs Office in November 2009, has come under fire from congressional Republicans since the solar manufacturer Solyndra declared bankruptcy Aug. 31 after receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee. While DOE made the initial loan to Solyndra before Silver took the program’s helm — a point he made repeatedly during his congressional testimony last month — he remained the administration’s point person for the embattled initiative.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement Thursday that Silver had informed him in July, when it was clear that no significant new funds were being budgeted for the loan program, that he would leave at the end of the fiscal year.
The program’s authorization expired Friday: On its last day the agency committed an additional $4.7 billion in loan guarantees to support four major clean-technology projects across the country.
“Because of my absolute confidence in Jonathan and the outstanding work he has done, I would welcome his continued service at the Department, but I completely understand the decision he has made,” Chu said.
Chu made a point of defending the agency’s loan guarantee operation, saying, “Under his [Silver’s] leadership, the loan program has demonstrated considerable success, with a broad portfolio of investments that will help American companies compete in the global clean energy market.”
UPDATE: Reps. Fred Upton (R., Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Cliff Stearns (R., Fla.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, respond:
Mr. Silver’s resignation does not solve the problem. We are in the midst of the Solyndra investigation and just days removed from Mr. Silver’s mad rush to finalize the last $4.7 billion in loans before the statutory deadline. Just this past Monday, the President declared the loan guarantee program sound and said that it was to be expected that one company like Solyndra could fail. But today the President changed his tune, stating, ‘The nature of these programs are going to be ones in which, you know, for every success there may be one that does not work out as well.’ Does the Obama Administration now expect that half of these companies will fail? American taxpayers are already on the hook for the half billion dollar Solyndra bust – what other shoes does this Administration expect to drop?