Energy Department Official Involved in Solyndra Controversy Resigns

The Energy Department's loan program chief has resigned

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Friday update: While many headlines yesterday--including ours--linked Silver's resignation with the Solyndra controversy, the coverage on Friday includes a push by the Obama administration to argue the two are not related. In a statement on Thursday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu made it seem like Silver had simply decided it was time for a career change when funding for his program had dried up. "In early July, shortly after the fiscal year 2011 budget was completed by Congress and it became clear that no significant new funds were included for the loan program, Jonathan Silver informed me that he intended to return to the private sector," Chu explainedThe New York Times is less suggestive than the Post was yesterday about the Solyndra affair fueling the resignation. The paper's headline--"Energy Loan Guarantee Official Resigns"--makes no mention of the bankrupt solar company.

Original story: So far, Solyndra's declaration of bankruptcy after receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee has threatened President Obama's scandal-free streak, exposed Solyndra executives to a congressional tongue-lashing, and shaken the solar industry. Now the affair appears to have precipitated the first resignation. The Washington Post is reporting that Jonathan Silver, the head of the Energy Department's loan guarantee program which signed off on the controversial loan, has decided to step down as some congressional Republicans have demanded. The Post explains that while the Energy Department made its initial loan to Solyndra before Silver assumed control over the now-defunct loan program, Silver did serve as the administration's point person for the initiative.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, for his part, is defending the program and claiming that Silver left of his own free will. "Because of my absolute confidence in Jonathan and the outstanding work he has done, I would welcome his continued service at the Department," Chu said, "but I completely understand the decision he has made." As for Silver? He already has a new role. Third Way, which National Journal identifies as a "centrist Democratic think tank," announced today that Silver will be joining the organization as a "Visiting Distinguished Senior Fellow" with a focus on clean energy. At the Energy Department, the press release notes, "Silver led the Obama Administration's multi-billion dollar investment program in alternative energy, financing a wide range of solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels, fossil and nuclear energy projects." There's no mention of Solyndra.

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