The White House attempted to assure Democratic lawmakers Tuesday that it recognized the negative impacts of its ongoing investigation into the solar industry, Axios reported.
Top White House officials, including National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, made the assurances during a conference call with nine Democratic senators, according to Axios. Deese and the other officials reportedly told the Democrats that the probe’s impacts were a “core issue of energy and economic security, as well as a supply chain issue.”
In March, the Department of Commerce opened the investigation into whether dominant Chinese solar panel makers had routed products through four southeast Asian nations — Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam — to circumvent Obama-era tariffs. Pro-tariff groups backed the investigation, which was requested by small California-based solar panel maker Auxin, arguing the alleged circumvention harmed American industry and jobs.
“The White House should stand strong in support of U.S. law and ignore efforts by a minority group of Senators and SEIA, a front for Chinese solar companies, to politicize federal investigations into China’s illegal trade activity harming American workers,” Nick Iacovella, a spokesperson for the Coalition for a Prosperous America, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email Wednesday.
Iacovella added that the Commerce Department was “absolutely right to initiate” the probe and that it should be free from political interference.
While the probe is explicitly investigating alleged illegal activity, though, the green energy industry — led by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) — has waged a war against the probe, arguing it has already severely damaged U.S. industry.
A recent internal survey of SEIA members showed that 83% of U.S. solar installers have had panel shipments delayed or canceled in the wake of the investigation. The vast majority of solar panel manufacturers are based in China, meaning the U.S. solar industry is reliant on imports to build large utility-scale green energy projects, according to a 2021 BloombergNEF analysis.
Large groups of Democratic senators, House representatives and governors have lambasted the Biden administration for even opening the investigation since March.
“I have very serious concerns with the Commerce Department’s recent decision to initiate an investigation into solar panel imports,” Democratic Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen told Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo during an April hearing. “Already, as a result of Commerce’s decision, industry surveys indicate over 80% of U.S. solar companies report being notified of canceled or delayed panel supply.”
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo responded, saying her hands are tied since she is legally required to investigate such matters.
Rosen attended the White House call Tuesday alongside fellow Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, Martin Heinrich, Kyrsten Sinema, Catherine Cortez Masto, Mark Kelly, Michael Bennet, Brian Schatz and Tom Carper, Axios reported.
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