Former top officials of federally backed Abound Solar told a House subcommittee Wednesday that subsidies from China caused the company’s collapse, while Republicans pressed a former government loan official about whether he used his personal email account to skirt records laws while discussing clean energy projects.
The committee hearing seemed at times to be a re-airing of sessions that took place in Congress nearly a year ago, when California-based Solyndra LLC collapsed owing more than a half billion dollars in taxpayer funds with its executives also blaming Chinese competition.
“With over $30 billion in reported government subsidies, Chinese panel makers were able to sell below cost and put Abound out of business before we were big enough to pose a real competitive threat to China’s rapidly growing market share,” Abound’s former chief executive, Craig Witsoe, told a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform panel.
But Republicans said there were other problems, too, including signs that the company had shaky finances.
Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican and chairman of the subcommittee investigating the Abound collapse, said government officials in the Department of Energy’s loan office ignored the warning signs.
Mr. Jordan said a credit-rating firm has said the company was “a bad risk,” and Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the oversight committee, pressed former Department of Energy loan official Jonathan Silver on whether he used his personal email account to discuss energy projects, bypassing government records laws. Mr. Issa said the use of a personal email account to discuss government business violated the intent of the federal records law.
Mr. Silver said he didn’t intend to violate any laws and used his personal email to review documents when he was out of the office.
The collapse of Abound came in June and followed the bankruptcies of two other government-backed energy companies: Solyndra and Beacon Power. All three companies filed bankruptcy petitions in Delaware.
Abound, based in Colorado, received a $400 million loan guarantee, but Energy Department officials said the company ultimately borrowed about $70 million.
Abound also was backed by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, whose administration offered the company nearly $12 million in tax credits in 2010. In an announcement in June, the company said its closure would affect about 125 employees.
Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, said the company had bipartisan support in Congress and “raised more than $300 million in private equity financing. Its backers included large and established energy investors — including BP Alternative Energy, the Invus Group, DCM and others.”