Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson this week compared his lobbying for the Areva uranium enrichment plant in Idaho to the potential political influence from the Obama Administration for the bankrupt Solyndra plant.
Simpson talked about the many meetings he had with DOE officials to push for a loan guarantees for the $3.2 billion plant at a budget hearing for the U.S. Department of Energy Wednesday.
"Did I put undue influence on the administration?" Simpson said. "Maybe."
DOE loan office acting director, David Frantz, who was testifying before the Appropriations Energy & Power Subcommittee, replied that the Areva loan guarantee was approved based on its merits and that politics have been kept out of DOE’s decisions, Environment and Energy Daily John McArdle reported .
“I was trying to make a very simple point that while we look at the role politics might play in the Administration’s decision-making, perhaps we should also be looking at the role it plays in our own decision-making,” Simpson said in a statement provided by his office.
McArdle suggested that Simpson’s frankness undercuts the case that Republicans like Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, have been trying to make against the Obama administration for what they are labeling “crony capitalism” in the loans for the Solyndra plant. Many of them supported loan guarantees for projects in their districts.
But Simpson said Friday he’s more interested in protecting taxpayers than pointing fingers at anyone.
“If we are going to have these loan programs, then I want politics removed from the decision-making process so we don’t end up with more Solyndras in the future,” he said. “And if we are going to remove politics from the process, it is incumbent upon members of Congress to reflect on their own actions as much as they reflect on the actions of others, including the administration.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney used the Solyndra story as a part of his campaign speech in Boise in February. He said he would bring an end to crony capitalism.
French energy giant Areva announced in December that it was suspending its Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility near Idaho Falls despite having a $2 billion conditional loan guarantee and a license awarded by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The difference between Areva and Solyndra is that shortly after the loan guarantee was granted to the California solar panel manufacturer, it went bankrupt. Republicans claim the Obama administration approved it to help supporters who invested in the plant.
“I am very comfortable with my support of the Areva project because it is important to my district and my constituents,” Simpson said.