Commerce Secretary Whose Firm Once Got Solar Loan Guarantees Resigns
June 21, 2012 - 8:39 am
President Obama just announced that he has accepted the resignation of Commerce Secretary John Bryson.
Bryson was involved earlier this month in an odd hit-and-run incident involving two Southern California crashes. The Commerce Department said the crashes were caused by Bryson having a seizure, that he was taken to the hospital and released after overnight observation.
Bryson was also linked, though, to the latest unfolding solar-energy scandal. Last month, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs probed whether the White House pulled strings for certain companies to secure solar loans.
Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) unveiled an email in which BrightSource Energy Inc. CEO John Woolard asked Jonathan Silver, executive director of the DOE loan program, to proofread a drafted email that then BrightSource chairman Bryson intended to send to White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley: “We need a commitment from the WH to quarterback loan closure between OMB and DOE,” read the email, which Woolard said “to the best of my knowledge” was never sent.
BrightSource, which received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee, canceled its initial public offering back in April. Months before, in October 2011, Bryson became Obama’s Commerce secretary.
“It’s clear that there was direct conversation leading to a form of favoritism for BrightSource,” Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said at the hearing.
“I want to extend my deepest thanks and appreciation to John for his service over the past months, and wish him and his family the very best,” Obama said in a statement.
“John has proven himself an effective and distinguished leader throughout his career in both the public and private sectors, from his success in the business world to his work leading on issues in the renewable energy industry,” the president added. “I am grateful that he brought that invaluable experience and expertise to my administration, and am pleased that he has agreed to continue supporting our efforts to strengthen the economy and create good jobs by serving as a member of my Export Council going forward.”
Bryson, 68, took a medical leave of absence after the hit-and-runs.
His nomination was opposed by 26 senators for environmental views including his co-founding of the Natural Resources Defense Council.