Steven Chu to Leave Energy Post
From SF Gate
Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who drew criticism from Republicans over his support for loans to Solyndra before the solar panel maker in Fremont went bankrupt, will leave his Cabinet post in President Obama’s second term, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Chu’s departure will be announced next week, according to one of the people. Both requested anonymity to discuss personnel matters that haven’t been announced. The people didn’t identify potential replacements.
The exit will leave the Obama administration with vacancies at the top of the three departments that oversee energy and environmental policy. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Lisa Jackson, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency, have announced their intention to leave the administration.
Chu, 64, was a career scientist and co-winner of the Nobel Prize for physics when he joined the Cabinet in January 2009. Supporters said Chu brought a fresh perspective to discussions often dominated by politics in Washington.
He led a group of scientists who studied ways to cap BP’s Macondo well, which gushed crude into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days in 2010, and helped create a division within the department dedicated to backing breakthrough energy technologies.
Some Republicans in Congress said his leadership was tarnished by the Energy Department’s endorsement in 2009 of Solyndra’s $535 million loan guarantee and other clean-energy projects.
The solar panel maker collapsed two years later, prompting a congressional investigation of allegations that the award was approved to benefit Solyndra’s biggest investor, an Obama supporter. Thousands of pages of correspondence from the administration and Solyndra’s investors failed to back up the contentions.
Solyndra became a frequent talking point for Republicans on the campaign trail last year. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called it a symbol of the Obama administration’s economic failures during a visit to the company’s shuttered factory.
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