Published September 16, 2011
WASHINGTON -- Solyndra officials were intensely pressuring Bush administration officials in early January 2009 to approve a government loan for the solar company before the Obama administration took power, according to new emails obtained by Fox News on Friday.
On Jan. 12, 2009, Solyndra CEO Chris Gronet sent an Energy Department official an email marked "urgent" expressing outrage that Bush officials had decided a few days earlier that while the loan application had "merit" it needed further study before officials could move forward with a taxpayer-financed loan.
"I was appalled to learn on Friday that our application is being delayed yet again," Gronet wrote to Energy official Steve Isakowitz, writing there had been "countless communications" back and forth suggesting the application would be reviewed Jan. 15.
Gronet wrote just days before President Obama's inauguration that stretching the process out could have a "severe" impact on Solyndra. The California-based solar panel manufacturer eventually got a $535 million loan from the Obama administration in September 2009 but recently filed for bankruptcy, cut 1,100 jobs and has since been raided by the FBI.
"It could cause an unknown delay in the program with the change in administration," wrote Gronet. "Jobs are at stake this time. I would like to talk to you at your earliest convenience on Monday to discuss how we can get the application back on track for what I hope to be a positive review on Thursday."
Obama administration officials provided the new emails to Fox News to show that Republicans on Capitol Hill have misrepresented other emails released earlier this week to suggest the Bush administration tried to cut off Solyndra's chances of getting a government loan.
Earlier this week, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a Jan. 13, 2009 email in which Bush Energy official Lachlan Seward wrote, "After canvassing the [Energy Department's credit] committee it was the unanimous decision not to engage in further discussions with Solyndra at this time."
Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., a member of the House committee, used that email to charge Friday that the decision to no longer "engage" on the matter meant that Bush officials wanted to pull the plug on the Solyndra deal altogether and the Obama administration improperly moved forward on it later.
"The [credit] committee voted unanimously not to go along with this ... loan so it died, and then like Lazarus it rose again," Murphy said Friday morning on Fox News.
But Obama administration officials insist Seward's email was actually just noting the credit committee did not want to "engage in further discussions with Solyndra" about the decision-making process because they were being hit with emails pressing for a decision. In fact, the Bush officials were still weighing the decision on a loan right up until the handover to the Obama administration.
Back on Jan. 9, 2009, Energy's credit committee had decided it would make sense to conduct "an independent analysis" of Solyndra and "the current state of the competitive market" in solar panels as it weighed to move forward on the deal.
The new emails obtained by Fox News show that on Jan. 12, 2009, Energy officials received several emails from Solyndra officials pressing the department to make a decision and complaining about the Jan. 9 decision to do an independent market analysis.
In a second email from Gronet to Isakowitz on Jan. 12, 2009, the CEO noted he had just been on the phone with another Energy official, David Frantz.
"And I find the response completely unacceptable," wrote Gronet. "An apology from David is enough."
Gronet added, "In addition, the rules and conditions keep changing. The impact on Solyndra is severe."
The next day, Jan. 13, 2009, Seward sent his email to Energy Department colleagues saying it was time to stop engaging with Solyndra officials.
Later that day, Seward received an email from a colleague who mentioned that a USA Today article noted there was a "glut of roof top solar systems," so perhaps Solyndra might not be able to carve out a market.
Seward thanked his colleague for sharing the USA Today article and concluded in a final email, "It serves ... to bolster our argument for a market analysis at this time," suggesting the Bush administration was still considering the deal.
But the new emails obtained by Fox News do not change the fact that other emails released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee suggest the Obama administration did later ignore or discount warning signs about the viability of Solyndra.
In one Aug. 19, 2009, email obtained by the House panel, it was clear to some administration officials that the solar company had shaky finances.
"While debt coverage is robust under stress conditions, the project cash balance goes to $62,000.00 in September 2011," said the email, which was prescient since the company did in fact go bankrupt in that very time frame.
But just days after that August 19, 2009, email, Obama officials approved the loan to Solyndra, with Vice President Joe Biden attending the company's ground-breaking via satellite.