Sunday July 3rd, 2022 8:14PM

Raimondo: Inquiry on solar imports follows the law

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo pushed back forcefully Wednesday against critics — including some within the Biden administration — who say a government investigation of solar imports from Southeast Asia is hindering President Joe Biden’s ambitious climate goals.

Testifying on her department’s budget, Raimondo told a Senate panel that the solar inquiry is following a process set by law that doesn’t allow consideration of climate change, supply chains or other factors.

“There's a process, a law,'' that she must follow, Raimondo said. “I have to implement the law.''

Raimondo called the inquiry into imports from four Southeast Asian nations “quasi-judicial” and "apolitical,'' noting that it is being led by career staff at the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration.

“We're going to move as fast as we can,'' she told Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. Schatz was one of several lawmakers who pressed Raimondo on the solar inquiry, which he said was serving to "grind an entire industry to a halt.''

Commerce announced in late March that it was investigating a complaint by a small California solar company that solar manufacturers in the four Asian countries — Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia — are using parts from Chinese companies to skirt steep antidumping and countervailing tariffs imposed on Chinese goods.

Hundreds of solar projects in the U.S. have been frozen or substantially delayed in recent weeks as investors seeks to protect against potentially steep penalties that could be imposed retroactively. Last week, an Indiana-based utility said delays of up to 18 months in solar projects meant it would have to keep running two coal-fired power plants that were slated for retirement.

“This case is destroying clean energy, and needlessly taking down American businesses and workers in its wake,” said Abigail Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. She called it “unfathomable” that Biden “would allow his own administration’s actions to be the downfall of his clean energy vision.”

Biden has set a goal to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, and solar power is a key part of that agenda. A report last year by the Energy Department says solar has the potential to supply up to 40% of the nation’s electricity within 15 years — a tenfold increase over current solar output.

More than 300 projects accounting for 51 gigawatts of solar capacity and 6 gigawatts of battery storage are being cancelled or delayed, Hopper said, and layoffs of tens of thousands of solar employees loom. Some companies report that their entire workforce is at risk, she said.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm also expressed alarm.

“At stake is the complete smothering of the investment and the jobs and the independence that we would be seeking as a nation to get our fuel from our own generation sources,'' she told a Senate hearing last week. “I certainly am deeply concerned about being able to achieve the goal of getting to 100% clean electricity by 2035 if this is not resolved quickly.''

A spokeswoman for White House climate envoy John Kerry said he has relayed the industry’s concerns within the administration, but has been "clear that he defers to Commerce’s discretion over the investigation.''

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said the Commerce investigation is "pretty darn damaging to businesses in the U.S.'' and urged Raimondo to reject the complaint by tiny Auxin Solar immediately.

Auxin CEO Mamun Rashid said his employees have been hassled, computer servers have been hacked and strange cars have been circling his factory.

“Somebody called me a couple days ago and said our name is very toxic in the industry,” he told the Wall Street Journal last week.

“The last thing I would want to do is take an action that hurts” the renewables industry, he said. "But are we going to look the other way on not abiding by U.S. law?”

Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, led a bipartisan letter urging Commerce to wrap up the investigation quickly.

“This investigation is already causing massive disruption in the solar industry, and it will severely harm American solar businesses and workers and increase costs for American families as long as it continues,” the senators wrote. “Without a reliable and cost-effective source of panels, existing and proposed solar projects could come to a halt.''

The letter was also signed by Moran, Schatz and 19 other senators. The solar industry employs over 230,000 American workers.

Raimondo mostly responded with sympathy for the senators' concerns. But she strongly disputed industry claims that potential tariffs in the case could exceed 200%.

Since 2012 Commerce has imposed more than 150 specific duties on solar products from China, with rates averaging between 12% and 20%, she said.

Penalties greater than 200% would "typically apply only to uncooperative companies that cannot differentiate themselves from the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party,'' Raimondo said.

Such punitive tariffs are "exceedingly unlikely,'' she said.

Hopper was not reassured. She told reporters after the hearing that the sudden halt in solar projects was “a rational business decision” in response to an “irrational” government action. “Why would any reasonable business buy solar panels in such a risky and uncertain business environment?" she asked.

While current U.S. law does not allow officials to consider factors such as climate change or supply chain problems, Raimondo suggested Congress could help fix the problem. "If Congress decides to change the law, we will implement that,” she said.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Utilities
© Copyright 2022
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Live updates | UN again getting data from Chernobyl plant
The U.N. nuclear agency says it is again receiving remote data from the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine following an interruption caused by the Russian occupation of the site
5:14PM ( 2 minutes ago )
Judge: Trump must pay $110K, meet conditions to end contempt
A New York judge says he will lift his contempt of court order issued against Donald Trump if the former president meets certain conditions
5:11PM ( 5 minutes ago )
Raimondo: Inquiry on solar imports follows the law
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo pushed back forcefully Wednesday against critics — including some within the Biden administration — who say a government investigation of solar imports from Southeast Asia is hindering President Joe Biden’s ambitious climate goals
5:07PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Conservative groups go against Trump, Oz in Pa. Senate race
Several prominent conservative groups are lining up behind Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Kathy Barnette as an alternative to Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon endorsed by former President Donald Trump
4:35PM ( 41 minutes ago )
Live updates | Ukraine accuses Russia of stealing grain
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has accused Russia of stealing the country’s grain and trying to sell some of it at global markets
4:30PM ( 45 minutes ago )
Clarence Dixon dies in Arizona's 1st execution since 2014
An Arizona man convicted of killing a college student in 1978 has been executed after a nearly eight-year hiatus in the state’s use of the death penalty brought on by a previous execution critics say was botched and difficulty that officials faced in sourcing lethal injection drugs
4:26PM ( 49 minutes ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Live updates | Pro-Russian protesters rally in Bulgaria
A pro-Russian nationalist party staged a protest rally in front of the parliament building in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, on Wednesday, calling for the government to resign and accusing it of failing to tackle the economic crisis
2:58PM ( 2 hours ago )
Senate vote to support Roe v. Wade expected to fall short
The Senate is rushing into an almost-certain-to-fail vote toward enshrining Roe v
2:57PM ( 2 hours ago )
Private property owners sue over Virginia's hunting dog law
Several property owners in Virginia are suing the state Department of Wildlife Resources over a state law that allows hunters to retrieve their hunting dogs from private property
2:05PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Google gets more multilingual, but will it get the nuance?
About 10 million people speak Quechua, but trying to automatically translate emails and text messages into the lingua franca of the Inca Empire was nearly impossible before Google introduced it into its digital translation service Wednesday
4:35PM ( 40 minutes ago )
Tech sector leads stocks lower as inflation remains high
Stocks fell on Wall Street Wednesday, led by more drops in technology companies, after a report on inflation came in worse than feared
4:34PM ( 42 minutes ago )
Ukraine to hold first war crimes trial of captured Russian
Ukraine's top prosecutor says the country plans to hold its first war crimes trial of a captured Russian soldier
4:30PM ( 46 minutes ago )
AP Business
EXPLAINER: What's the fallout from Ukraine's pipe shutdown?
The shutdown of a gas pipeline through Russian-held territory in Ukraine is sending a new wave of energy jitters through Europe
11:58AM ( 5 hours ago )
UK ramps up threat to rewrite Brexit deal with the EU
Britain and the European Union are once again at loggerheads over Brexit
10:07AM ( 7 hours ago )
Sri Lanka deploys troops in capital after violence, protests
Sri Lankan authorities have deployed armored vehicles and troops in the streets of the capital two days after pro-government mobs attacked peaceful protesters, triggering a wave of violence across the country
10:02AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
Live updates | Italy’s premier pushes for talks to end war
Italy’s premier said Wednesday that Ukraine’s leaders must start shaping their terms for an acceptable peace deal, especially in light of Russia’s surprising failure to win its war outright
1:51PM ( 3 hours ago )
Ukraine cuts Russia gas at 1 hub, underlining risk to supply
Ukraine stopped the flow of Russian natural gas through one hub that feeds European homes and industry
12:04PM ( 5 hours ago )
Battery-powered Greek island bets on green future
The remote Greek island of Tilos has pioneered a recycling plant that could act as a blueprint for other islands — including popular holiday destinations — that struggle with waste disposal
7:14AM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Asian stocks mixed, China gains ahead of US price data
Shares are mixed in Asia with Chinese benchmarks pressing higher after a rally in technology companies helped reverse most of an early slide on Wall Street
12:05AM ( 17 hours ago )
Live updates | Russia-Ukraine War
The U.S. House has emphatically approved a fresh $40 billion Ukraine aid package that beefs up President Joe Biden’s initial request
10:20PM ( 18 hours ago )
Russia pummels vital port of Odesa, targeting supply lines
Ukrainian officials say Russian missiles pummeled the vital port of Odesa, apparently as part of efforts to disrupt supply lines and weapons shipments critical to Kyiv’s defense
6:10PM ( 23 hours ago )
AP Business - Utilities
Judge: Trump must pay $110K, meet conditions to end contempt
A New York judge says he will lift his contempt of court order issued against Donald Trump if the former president meets certain conditions
5:11PM ( 5 minutes ago )
‘Fiery’ Psaki ending tenure as a top White House messenger
Jen Psaki is leaving as White House press secretary on Friday after having answered reporters’ questions nearly every weekday of the almost 500 days that President Joe Biden has been in office
5:06PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Former La. police boss faces contempt in Ronald Greene probe
Lawmakers investigating the deadly arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene have voted to hold the former head of the Louisiana State Police in contempt for defying a subpoena and refusing to turn over his handwritten journals
4:53PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Dems' bid to secure Roe v. Wade falls to GOP-led filibuster
The Senate has fallen far short in a vote toward enshrining Roe v
4:50PM ( 25 minutes ago )
Yelich hits for record-tying 3rd cycle, but Reds beat Brews
Christian Yelich hit for a record-tying third cycle — all of them against Cincinnati — but the Milwaukee Brewers’ rally fell short in the ninth inning in a 14-11 loss to the Reds
4:50PM ( 26 minutes ago )