Darrell Issa to Energy Secretary Chu: Don't Let The Door Hit You On the Way Out

Steven Chu and Comic Sans | Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr/Creative Commons License

As has been widely expected, Steven Chu announced today that he will be stepping down from his post as Secretary of Energy as early as March. And Southern California Representative Darrell Issa chose the occasion of Chu's announcement to issue a surprisingly ungracious statement marking Chu's departure.

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Issa's office released a statement Friday damning Chu for carrying out Obama administration policies during his tenure:

The San Diego-area representative, in his role as Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has spent the last few months waging a partisan and strident campaign against Chu's Department of Energy centering on the highly publicized Solyndra bankruptcy. Issa had gone so far in the course of his committee's investigation as to order U.S. Marshals to serve subpoenas on DOE staff people to force them to testify before his committee. Issa ordered one DOE staff person to testify before his committee without access to counsel, a move that Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democratic member of the Oversight Committee, referred to as "an extreme abuse of the authority of this Committee, contrary to the Constitutional concept of due process, and a stain on the Committee's honor."

The controversy centered around the Energy Department's "1701 program," a Bush administration renewable energy research and development initiative under which the Bay Area photovoltaic firm Solyndra received a $535 million loan guarantee. The firm's later bankruptcy was a major Republican talking point during the 2012 election, with Issa and other Republicans contending that Solyndra only received the loan due to Democratic Party cronyism, but the issue failed to gain traction with most of the electorate.

One fact that consistently went unmentioned in Issa's rhetorical war with the Energy Department: Issa has his own "Solyndra" skeleton in his closet. In 2010, Issa wrote a letter to Chu urging the Secretary to expedite a federal loan to California electric car startup Aptera. According to blogger Lee Fang at Think Progress,

Aptera went into Chapter 7 liquidation in December 2011, and has since been bought by a Chinese auto manufacturer.

For Chu's part, the outgoing Secretary defended the loan program in a letter to DOE staff:

Most independent analysts seem to agree with Chu's assessment of the program.

For those who had hoped that the Solyndra bankruptcy might fade from constant mention post-election, Issa's broadside is disappointing. It's also disappointing to anyone who had hoped for simple human decency from House leadership -- if indeed anyone had any hope left on that score at all.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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