Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Louisiana Sen. David Vitter and other Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for awarding billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for renewable energy projects, including a $528 million loan to a now-bankrupt California solar panel maker. But the GOP lawmakers haven’t always been so critical of the program.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show the Louisiana Republican wrote to the Energy Department at least seven times since 2009 seeking money for projects that would benefi t his home state.
One of the projects backed by Vitter — for a company that makes activated carbon to reduce pollution at coal-fired power plants — has received preliminary approval for a $245 million loan guarantee.
Numerous GOP senators, including McConnell, have sent letters to the Energy Department seeking assistance for projects in their home states.
On the Senate floor last week, McConnell called the first stimulus law “a national punch line” that featured “turtle tunnels” and “sidewalks to nowhere.”
But in 2009, McConnell wrote two letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu asking for federal loans for a plant that would build electric cars in Franklin, Ky. Mc- Connell said the loans said could help create 4,000 jobs.
“I hope you will realize the importance of such job creation to Kentucky,” he wrote in a July 2009 letter supporting ZAP Motor Manufacturing. The plant did not receive DOE money.
In April 2009, Vitter urged Chu to approve a loan for Red River Environmental Products, saying the Coushatta, La., company could help meet a growing demand for products that help power plants comply with stricter federal regulation of mercury emissions.
“I understand the importance of accessing the domestic energy resources we have, like coal, in an environmentally conscious manner,” wrote Vitter.
Vitter and other Republicans have pounced on the bankruptcy of Fremont, Calif.-based Solyndra Inc., saying the White House rushed to approve a loan guarantee to the politically connected company without adequate oversight.
Solyndra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this month and laid off its 1,100 employees. The Silicon Valley company was the first renewable-energy company to receive a loan guarantee under a stimuluslaw program to encourage green energy and was frequently touted by the Obama administration as a model.
The company’s implosion and revelations that the administration hurried Office of Management and Budget officials to finish their review of the loan in time for a September 2009 groundbreaking have become an embarrassment for President Barack Obama.