Obama: Naysayers on Economy, Peddling Fiction

The market is spiraling. China who is the second largest U.S. debt holder has an economy that is spiraling oil prices are spiraling and what about WalMart?

Walmart to shutter 269 stores – including more than half in US

Guardian: The retail giant announced it is working to transfer 10,000 US employees to nearby stores, as CEO said closings are ‘necessary to keep the company strong’

Walmart is closing 269 stores, more than half of them in the US and another big chunk in its challenging Brazilian market. The stores being shuttered account for a fraction of the company’s 11,000 stores worldwide and less than 1% of its global revenue, but according to workers’ group Making Change at Walmart, this announcement will affect 10,000 US employees.

More than 95% of the stores set to be closed in the US are within 10 miles of another Walmart. The Bentonville, Arkansas, company said it is working to ensure that workers are placed in nearby locations.

The store closures will start at the end of the month, and many closures will be of the company’s Walmart Express stores: all 102 of them (out of the 154 locations to be shuttered in the US).

In 2011, Walmart Express marked the retailer’s first entry into the convenience store arena. The stores are about 12,000 square feet and sell essentials like toothpaste. But the concept never caught on as the stores served the same purpose as Walmart’s larger Neighborhood Markets: fill-in trips and prescription pickups.

By: Greg Campbell

During his final State of the Union Address on Tuesday, amidst his unseemly campaign politicking in a year where he is ineligible for reelection, President Obama sniped at Republicans and touted supposed economic successes that have occurred under his stewardship.

He even insisted that anyone “claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.”

To hear Obama speak of supposed economic success is hardly surprising; the president has long kept his own counsel and obliged himself his own conjured facts and false realities.

His administration has touted “bringing peace to Syria” as an accomplishment. As Obamacare takes effect like Cancer metastasizing in a body, he continues to assert that Americans love it and that it is working. He insisted just last week that he held the constitutional authority to undermine the Second Amendment without Congress.

So, it is of little surprise to discover that this same delusional man asserted that it is those who warn of Obama’s economy that are “peddling fiction.”

The fact is that by simple and complex metrics alike, it’s easy to see the devastating toll his “leadership” has taken on our nation’s financial health.

It turns out that not only is Obama being less-than-honest, but he’s outright lying. Obama’s economy can boast of the worst economic numbers in over 80 years!

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The economic expansion—already the worst on record since World War II—is weaker than previously thought, according to newly revised data.

From 2012 through 2014, the economy grew at an all-too-familiar rate of 2% annually, according to three years of revised figures the Commerce Department released Thursday. That’s a 0.3 percentage point downgrade from prior estimates.

The revisions were released concurrently with the government’s first estimate of second-quarter output.

Since the recession ended in June 2009, the economy has advanced at a 2.2% annual pace through the end of last year. That’s more than a half-percentage point worse than the next-weakest expansion of the past 70 years, the one from 2001 through 2007. While there have been highs and lows in individual quarters, overall the economy has failed to break out of its roughly 2% pattern for six years.

Obama, admittedly, came to office at a time when America was in trouble. Applying for the job of president, he promised to help revitalize the economy. What came from him and his Democratic minions in Congress was a punishing program of job-killing economic burdens on job creators and an expansion of government increased government dependency and that squeezed more and more out of the middle class and the lower class.

The Daily Caller reports on Obama’s failures:

Over the first five years of Obama’s presidency, the U.S. economy grew more slowly than during any five-year period since just after the end of World War II, averaging less than 1.3 percent per year. If we leave out the sharp recession of 1945-46 following World War II, Obama looks even worse, ranking dead last among all presidents since 1932. No other president since the Great Depression has presided over such a steadily poor rate of economic growth during his first five years in office. This slow growth should not be a surprise in light of the policies this administration has pursued.

An economy usually grows rapidly in the years immediately following a recession. As Peter Ferrera points out in Forbes, the U.S. economy has not even reached its long run average rate of growth of 3.3 percent; the highest annual growth rate since Obama took office was 2.8 percent. Total growth in real GDP over the 19 quarters of economic recovery since the second quarter of 2009 has been 10.2 percent. Growth over the same length of time during previous post-World War II recoveries has ranged from 15.1 percent during George W. Bush’s presidency to 30 percent during the recovery that began when John F. Kennedy was elected.

Facts and figures are to Obama like BBs to a tank; they just simply bounce-off without having any real effect.

When he and his fellow Democrats encounter facts that do not jibe with their preferred narratives, they simply deny reality in favor of crafting a new one to spoon-feed to the lapdog media and the government-dependent and government-created invalids who are willing to believe his lies without any semblance of critical thought.

In truth, it takes no economic genius to understand our situation. It requires just some honest observation.

Are jobs more plentiful than they were before?

Is it easier to obtain the American dream now than before?

Is $18 trillion+ in national debt a good indicator of economic stability?

Ukraine Cyber Attack on Power Grid, U.S. Warning

Ex-spy chief: Ukrainian cyberattack a warning sign for US utilities

Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, the former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA, says the US faces ‘darkening skies’ after malware linked power outages in Ukraine.

MIAMI — Former National Security Agency chief Gen. Michael Hayden warned that a recent malware attack on the Ukrainian power grid is yet another troubling sign that the US electric supply is vulnerable to hackers.

The Dec. 23 attack on utilities serving the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine appears to be the second confirmed incident of a computer-based attack to damage physical infrastructure. The attack led to blackouts throughout the region for several hours before power was restored. The Stuxnet worm that targeted the Iranian nuclear program is the only other such incident.

What happened in Ukraine is a harbinger for the kinds of cyberthreats the US faces, possibly from rival nations such as Russia and North Korea, the retired Air Force general told a crowd of critical infrastructure experts at the S4x16 security conference in Miami. General Hayden served as director of the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and served as CIA chief from 2006 to 2009.

“There a darkening sky,” he told reporters after his speech Tuesday, referring to the increasing threat of malware infections leading to physical damages. “This is another data point on an arc that we’ve long predicted,” he said, acknowledging that the Ukraine attack reinforces concerns in official circles about security of the American power grid. What’s more, he said, if early analysis of malware discovered at the Ukrainian facility that links it to Russia is accurate, the incident foreshadows a troubling uptick in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia over the disputed Crimea region.

The Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged that a version of the BlackEnergy program linked to the Ukraine attack has been discovered in US facilities. Hayden said that the link was troubling. “If they have a presence on the grid [with BlackEnergy] then they have already achieved what they need to carry out a destructive attack.”
Analysis of the malware recovered from the Ukrainian facility conducted by the security firm iSight Partners and SANS Institute revealed that a variant of BlackEnergy, dubbed “BlackEnergy3,” was present in the compromised utilities. However, security experts caution that it is premature to conclude that BlackEnergy was actually involved in the outages.

“It is possible but far too early in the technical analysis to state that,” wrote Michael Assante, who heads up industrial control system research for SANS. “Simply put, there is still evidence that has yet to be uncovered that may refute the minutia of the specific components of the malware portion of the attack.”

Hayden also remarked during his talk Friday on the general state of overall cybersecurity, calling on US lawmakers to pass legislation that will help bolster the nation’s digital defenses.

He also criticized of efforts by FBI Director James Comey, and others in the Obama administration, to weaken strong encryption on consumer devices to make it easier for law enforcement to conduct surveillance operations. “End-to-end encryption is good for America,” he said. “I know that it represents challenges for the FBI, but on balance it creates more security for Americans than the alternative – backdoors.”

Regarding the recent Office of Personnel Management hack – which US intelligence agencies and cybersecurity expert have blamed on China – Hayden said that as head of the NSA he would have absolutely stolen similar data from the Chinese government if given the opportunity. What’s more, he said, he wouldn’t have had to ask permission to carry out the operation.

“Fundamentally, the limiting factor now is a lack of legal and policy framework to do what we are capable of doing today,” Hayden said. “OPM isn’t a bad on China,” he said. “It’s a bad on us.”

What is vulnerable in the United States?

Project ‘Gridstrike’ Finds Substations To Hit For A US Power Grid Blackout

Turns out free and publicly available information can be used to determine the most critical electric substations in the US, which if attacked, could result in a nationwide blackout.

Remember that million-dollar Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) study in 2013 that found that attacks on just nine electric substations in the US could cause a blackout across the entire grid? Well, a group of researchers decided to see just what it would take for a small group of domestic terrorists to identify the US’s most critical substations — using only free and public sources of information.

While FERC relied on confidential and private information in its shocking report and spent a whopping $1 million in research, researchers at iSIGHT Partners used only so-called open-source intelligence, at a cost of just $15,000 total for 250 man-hours by their estimates. The Wall Street Journal, which obtained and first reported on the confidential FERC report, never publicly revealed the crucial substations ID’ed by FERC for obvious reasons, nor does iSIGHT plan to disclose publicly the ones it found.

Sean McBride, lead analyst for critical infrastructure at iSIGHT, says the goal of his team’s so-called “Gridstrike” project was to determine how a small local-grown terror group could sniff out the key substations to target if it were looking to cause a power blackout — either via physical means, a cyberattack, or a combination of the two. “How would an adversary go about striking at the grid?” McBride said in an interview with Dark Reading. He will speak publicly for the first time about the Gridstrike research next week at the S4x2016 ICS/SCADA conference in Miami.

The iSIGHT researchers drew from a combination of publicly available transmission substation information, maps, Google Earth, and grid congestion documentation, and drew correlations among the substations that serve the top ten cities in the US. They then were able to come up with 15 substations that serve as the backbone for much of the electric grid: knocking out those substations would result in a nationwide blackout, they say.

FERC’s report had concluded that the US could suffer a nationwide blackout if nine of the nation’s 55,000 electric transmission substations were shut down by attackers.

“We looked at maps and tried to … identify [power] generation facilities, and looked up both centers and what substations are in the middle that would make high-value targets,” for example, McBride says. “We tried to identify which substations have the highest number of transmission lines coming in and out,” as well, and weighed their significance.

The researchers shared the findings from Gridstrike with their customers as well as “organizations most interested from a defense perspective” to such attacks, says McBride, who declined to provide any further details on the specific organizations.

“We were extremely concerned about the amount of publicly available information” on the critical substations, McBride says. There were several documents available publicly that should not have been: in some cases, a sensitive document was sitting on an organization’s public website even though it specified that the report was not for public consumption.

The hope is that the findings will alert critical infrastructure and other organizations with ties to the power grid that understanding how an adversary thinks can help shore up defenses, McBride says. “They need to manage their recon exposure.”

What does all of this mean for the US power grid’s actual vulnerability to a physical or cyber-physical attack? McBride says the openly available intel is “reason for concern.” He says he worries more about the possibility of a regional, localized, grid attack targeting a city or area, than a nationwide attack.

As for the recent power blackout in the Ukraine that appears to have been due in part to a cyberattack, McBride says he’d be surprised if the attackers didn’t gather some of their reconnaissance via open source intelligence.


POTUS Green Climate Fund, Expands EPA

The most harmful and unharnessed agency in the Federal government hurting the American people and business is the EPA. The recent Climate Change Agreement that Barack Obama announced with hundreds of other countries will cost the U.S. government $100 billion per year, paid to countries that cannot fund it themselves. It is called the Green Climate Fund, essentially a happy name for redistribution of wealth.

CBS: The path to good green intentions is strewn with obstacles that could waylay a $100 billion plan to help poorer countries fight climate change. These range from the adequacy of the fund’s size to its secrecy-minded operations. And it’s all part of a worldwide effort mandated by the Paris climate deal, whose overall cost could reach $16.5 trillion.

Part of the climate accord struck over the weekend in Paris, the Green Climate Fund will subsidize the developing nations in adopting such steps as carbon-free power generation and protections against global warming-linked catastrophes like hurricanes and rising seas.
Climate cleanup work is an expensive proposition. The total tab, focused on developed economies curbing their voluminous carbon emissions, is around $16.5 trillion, the International Energy Agency estimates. A switch from fossil fuels would entail a massive reordering of global energy production and delivery, moving toward renewable sources and greater energy efficiency, the agency said.

A deeper look at the EPA, including the fraud, collusion and propaganda.

E.P.A. Broke the Law by Using Social Media to Push Water Rule, Auditor Finds
 NYT’s WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency engaged in “covert propaganda” in violation of federal law when it blitzed social media to urge the general public to support President Obama’s controversial rule intended to better protect the nation’s streams and surface waters, congressional auditors have concluded.
The ruling by the Government Accountability Office, which opened its investigation after a report in The New York Times on the agency’s practices, served as a cautionary tale to federal agencies about the perils of getting too active in using social media to push a cause. Federal laws prohibit agencies from engaging in lobbying and propaganda.

It also emerged as Republican leaders moved to block the so-called Waters of the United States clean-water rule through an amendment to the enormous spending bill expected to pass in Congress this week.

“GAO’s finding confirms what I have long suspected, that EPA will go to extreme lengths and even violate the law to promote its activist environmental agenda,” Senator Jim Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma and chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee who is pressing to block the rule, said in a statement Monday. “EPA’s illegal attempts to manufacture public support for its Waters of the United States rule and sway Congressional opinion regarding legislation to address that rule have undermined the integrity of the rule-making process and demonstrated how baseless this unprecedented expansion of EPA regulatory authority really is.”
The E.P.A. rolled out a social media campaign on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and even on more innovative tools such as Thunderclap to counter opposition to its water rule, which imposes new restrictions on how land near certain surface waters can be used. The agency. said the rule would prevent pollution in drinking water sources. Farmers, business groups and Republicans have called the rule flagrant government overreach.

But in the E.P.A.’s counterattack, the G.A.O. says agency officials engaged in “covert propaganda” on behalf of Mr. Obama’s water policy by concealing the fact that its social messages were coming from the E.P.A. The agency essentially became lobbyists for its cause by including links that directed people to advocacy organizations.

Federal agencies are allowed to promote their own policies, but they are not allowed to engage in propaganda, which means covert activity intended to influence the American public. They also are not allowed to use federal resources to conduct so-called grass-roots lobbying — urging the American public to contact Congress to take a certain kind of action on pending legislation.

As it promoted the Waters of the United States rule, also known as the Clean Water Rule, the E.P.A. violated both of these laws, a 26-page report signed by Susan A. Poling, the general counsel to the G.A.O., concluded, in an investigation requested by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“EPA appealed to the public to contact Congress in opposition to pending legislation in violation of the grass-roots lobbying prohibition,” the report says. In a letter to the G.A.O. as the review was underway, Avi S. Garbow, the E.P.A.’s general counsel, said the agency had looked back at its social media campaign and concluded that it had complied with all federal laws, calling it “an appropriately far-reaching effort to educate the American public about an important part of EPA’s mission: protecting clean water.”
The rule in question has been adopted by the agency, but its implementation was suspended nationally in October by a federal appeals court, after opponents of the plan, who argue that it vastly increases the control of the federal government over land near surface waters, filed a lawsuit challenging it.

The G.A.O. report details two specific violations that took place as the E.P.A. was preparing to issue the final rule. The first violation involved the Thunderclap campaign in September 2014, in which the E.P.A. used a new type of social media tool to quickly reach out to 1.8 million people to urge them to support the clean-water proposal. Thunderclap, described as an online flash mob, allows large groups of people to share a single message together at the same time.

“Clean water is important to me,” the Thunderclap message said. “I support EPA’s efforts to protect it for my health, my family, and my community.”

The effort violated federal law, the G.A.O. said, because as it ricocheted through the Internet, many people who received it would not have known that it was written by the E.P.A., making it covert propaganda.

The agency separately violated the anti-lobbying law when one of its public affairs officers wrote a blog post saying he was a surfer and did not “want to get sick from pollution,” and included a link button to an advocacy group urging the public to “tell Congress to stop interfering with your right to clean water.”

The G.A.O. has instructed the E.P.A. to find out how much money was spent by staff involved in these violations and to report back.

Such findings by the G.A.O. are infrequent but not unprecedented. The G.A.O. concluded similarly that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid violated the anti-propaganda act in 2004 when it covertly paid for news videos distributed to television stations without disclosing that it had funded the work. The Department of Education, in 2005, was also found to have violated the same law when it hired a public relations firm to covertly promote the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Thomas Reynolds, who as communications director at the E.P.A. moved to add political campaign-style tactics to the agency’s public relations operation, has recently moved to the White House. Liz Purchia, an E.P.A. spokeswoman, said the agency had not yet seen the report, which was issued Monday morning, and could not comment on it yet.


Hacking the Department of Energy, the Threat to You

The USDOEnergy is a cabinet level department and while responsibility includes power, laboratories, it includes nuclear. The agency secretary is Earnest Moniz, most notable for being at the side of John Kerry during the Iran nuclear talks.

Hacking this agency is terrifying and added into this equation, in 1999 the FBI investigated how China obtained specific specifications for a particular nuclear device from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Records: Energy Department struck by Cyber Attacks

USAToday: Attackers successfully compromised U.S. Department of Energy computer systems more than 150 times between 2010 and 2014, a review of federal records obtained by USA TODAY finds.

Cyber attackers successfully compromised the security of U.S. Department of Energy computer systems more than 150 times between 2010 and 2014, according to a review of federal records obtained by USA TODAY.

Incident reports submitted by federal officials and contractors since late 2010 to the Energy Department’s Joint Cybersecurity Coordination Center shows a near-consistent barrage of attempts to breach the security of critical information systems that contain sensitive data about the nation’s power grid, nuclear weapons stockpile and energy labs.

The records, obtained by USA TODAY through the Freedom of Information Act, show DOE components reported a total of 1,131 cyberattacks over a 48-month period ending in October 2014. Of those attempted cyber intrusions, 159 were successful.

“The potential for an adversary to disrupt, shut down (power systems), or worse … is real here,” said Scott White, Professor of Homeland Security and Security Management and Director of the Computing Security and Technology program at Drexel University. “It’s absolutely real.”

Energy Department officials would not say whether any sensitive data related to the operation and security of the nation’s power grid or nuclear weapons stockpile was accessed or stolen in any of the attacks, or whether foreign governments are believed to have been involved.

“DOE does not comment on ongoing investigations or possible attributions of malicious activity,” Energy Department spokesman Andrew Gumbiner said in a statement.

In all cases of malicious cybersecurity activity, Gumbiner said the Energy Department “seeks to identify indicators of compromise and other cybersecurity relevant information, which it then shares broadly amongst all DOE labs, plants, and sites as well as within the entire federal government.”

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the Energy Department responsible for managing and securing the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, experienced 19 successful attacks during the four-year period, records show.

While information on the specific nature of the attacks was redacted from the records prior to being released, numerous Energy Department cybersecurity vulnerabilities have been identified in recent years by the department’s Office of Inspector General, an independent watchdog agency.

After a cyber attack in 2013 resulted in unauthorized access to personally identifying information for more than 104,000 Energy Department employees and contractors, auditors noted “unclear lines of responsibility” and “lack of awareness by responsible officials.” In an audit report released in October of last year, the Inspector General found 41 Energy Department servers and 14 workstations “were configured with default or easily guessed passwords.”

Felicia Jones, spokeswoman for the Energy Department Office of Inspector General, said while there have been some improvements, “threats continue and the Department cannot let down its guard.”

Records show 53 of the 159 successful intrusions from October 2010 to October 2014 were “root compromises,” meaning perpetrators gained administrative privileges to Energy Department computer systems.

Manimaran Govindarasu, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State University who studies cybersecurity issues involving the power grid, said the root compromises represent instances where intruders gained “super-user” privileges.

“That means you can do anything on the computer,” he said. “So that is definitely serious. Whether that computer was critical or just a simple office computer, we don’t know.”

Govindarasu said while there could be information in Energy Department computer systems concerning security plans or investments related to the nation’s power grid, the grid’s real-time control systems are operated by utilities and are not directly connected to the Energy Department’s computer systems.

The Energy Department federal laboratories, however, sometimes pull data on the operation of the grid from utilities for research and analysis.

Records show 90 of the 153 successful cyber intrusions over the four-year period were connected to the DOE’s Office of Science, which directs scientific research and is responsible for 10 of the nation’s federal energy laboratories.

A USA TODAY Media Network report in March found a physical or cyber attack nearly once every four days on the nation’s power infrastructure, based on an analysis of reports to the U.S. Department of Energy through a separate reporting system which requires utility companies to notify the federal agency of incidents that affect power reliability.

Amid mounting concerns, the oversight and energy subcommittees of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will hold a joint hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday to examine vulnerabilities of the national electric grid and the severity of various threats.

The congressional committee’s charter for Thursday’s meeting, citing USA TODAY’s report in March, notes the growing vulnerability of the nation’s increasingly sophisticated bulk electric system.

“As the electric grid continues to be modernized and become more interconnected,” the charter states, “the threat of a potential cybersecurity breach significantly increases.”

Dept. of Energy, Fleecing of the Taxpayers

Report: DOE Failed to Catch Solyndra’s Misrepresentations

by Lachlan Markay: Inspector general releases findings of years-long investigation into bankrupt solar company

A years-long investigation into the Department of Energy’s support for the bankrupt solar company Solyndra faults DOE officials, contractors, and the company itself for the department’s eventual loss of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars steered to the firm.

The DOE’s inspector general on Wednesday released the results of the investigation. It was undertaken in conjunction with the Department of Justice, which, the report reveals, decided early this year not to pursue any criminal charges in the matter.

Solyndra received a $535 million stimulus-backed DOE loan guarantee as part of the Obama administration’s early push for renewable energy subsidies. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and laid off 1,100 employees, eventually costing taxpayers more than $500 million.

The company became a symbol of opposition to the administration’s green energy subsidy programs. Critics said its investors’ political connections had helped it to obtain taxpayer money despite obvious problems with its business.

Wednesday’s report, from DOE’s inspector general, notes these concerns, but says that the political factors supporting Solyndra’s government assistance were not examined during the investigation.

“While not the focus of the investigation, we were mindful of the concerns that had been raised regarding possible political pressure applied in the Solyndra decision-making process,” the report noted.

“Employees acknowledged that they felt tremendous pressure, in general, to process loan guarantee applications. They suggested the pressure was based on the significant interest in the program from Department leadership, the Administration, Congress, and the applicants.”

The report faults some unnamed DOE officials for failing to account for problems with the company’s business model shortly before it guaranteed financing for its solar panel production.

A week before the closing of Solyndra’s loan, an employee in the DOE’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) noticed a report from another branch of the department, the office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, that projected a per-watt cost of rooftop solar systems well below what Solyndra charged for its products.

According to the report, the LPO employee sent three emails to superiors noting the troubling data, yet no action was taken and DOE moved ahead with its Solyndra loan guarantee.

“This information should have raised serious questions concerning the viability of Solyndra’s financial model and Solyndra’s corresponding ability to service its debt payments. Instead, it was apparently disregarded,” the report found.

By that point, according to the report, Solyndra was already lying to the department about the company’s financial health: it inflated sales figures and misrepresented the costs of its solar panels to both DOE and engineering and financial contractors hired to assess its loan guarantee application.

The report primarily blames Solyndra for those misrepresentations, but it also faults LPO officials for failing to recognize apparent discrepancies in the information the company was providing.

In the run-up to the closing of its DOE-guaranteed loan, Solyndra assured the White House Office of Management and Budget and the credit rating agency Fitch, hired to assess the company’s financial prospects, that its panels were selling well and fetching a competitive price.

However, just weeks before, the company had provided DOE with a spreadsheet that “if read carefully” would have demonstrated to LPO officials that the company was inflating promises of future contracts and hiding the true costs of its products and that it “internally viewed the sales contracts as broken.”

“It is clear that there were shortcomings in the Department’s due diligence process,” the IG found, but it placed the bulk of the blame on the company itself for providing misleading and at times inaccurate information to department auditors and loan officials.

William Yeatman, a senior fellow and energy policy expert with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said he was suspicious of IG findings that seemed to absolve the department of responsibility for ensuring the accuracy of information used to support the loan guarantee.

“The report raises more questions than answers,” Yeatman said in an email. “Outwardly, it passes the buck to Solyndra. But if you pay attention to the details, it demonstrates a woeful lack of due diligence by the Energy Department.”

“However, the IG refused to investigate a likely cause of this ineptitude—political pressure, which the report acknowledges was a factor—for whatever reason,” he added.

Since Solyndra’s bankruptcy, two other companies backed by the same loan guarantee program, Fisker Automotive and Abound Solar, have also filed for bankruptcy protection.

A third, Vehicle Production Group, ceased operations and laid off its entire staff in 2013. Another company, AM General, bought up VPG’s remaining assets, and its DOE-backed $50 million loan, for which it paid just $3 million.


EPA withholds mine spill documents from Congress

by Tori Richards: A congressional committee blasted the Environmental Protection Agency today for blocking release of documents related to the Gold King mine disaster, which poured deadly chemicals into the largest source of drinking water in the West.

“It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the EPA failed to meet the House Science Committee’s reasonable deadline in turning over documents pertaining to the Gold King Mine spill,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). “These documents are essential to the Committee’s ongoing investigation and our upcoming hearing on Sept. 9. But more importantly, this information matters to the many Americans directly affected in western states, who are still waiting for answers from the EPA.”

Smith – who frequently spars with the EPA – is chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. EPA director Gina McCarthy has been asked to appear and answer questions about the agency’s role in creating a 3-million-gallon toxic spill into Colorado’s Animas River on Aug. 5. Critics say McCarthy and the EPA have been unresponsive, secretive and unsympathetic toward millions of people who live in three states bordering the river.

For several days, the EPA didn’t notify the states of Utah, New Mexico or the Navajo Nation that the spill was coming their way. McCarthy waited a week before visiting Colorado and even then she refused to tour Silverton, the town nearest the Gold King mine where EPA contractors unleashed the toxic plume into waterways that feed the Colorado River. The agency withheld the name of the contractor working on the project and other details that are generally considered public information. Lastly, the Navajo Nation, which relies on the river for drinking water and farming, received an emergency supply from the EPA in oil-contaminated containers.

Smith also blasted McCarthy for traveling to Japan while controversy over the spill continues to swirl. He criticized President Barack Obama, as well.

“EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is currently crusading on climate-change action in Japan while President Obama, who has yet to visit the areas affected by the spill, is touring the U.S. to tout EPA’s latest regulation that will do little to impact climate change and will only further burden Americans with higher electric bills,” Smith said.

And it’s not just the public and the media that have been frustrated by the EPA’s inaction.

“Time and again, the EPA has failed to be cooperative, forthright, or reasonable in its dealings with my Committee and with Congress in general,” Smith told Watchdog. “The agency embodies all the dysfunction, misguided priorities, and government overreach that angers so many Americans. The EPA seems to have a clear disregard for the very people it is intended to serve.”

The hearing is scheduled to last just a day and could include testimony from the firm that was contracted to stem the flow of toxic water from several mines above Silverton. Smith said in a statement last week that people affected by the spill continue to deal with limited information and uncertainty.

“As the agency entrusted by the American people to protect the environment and ensure the nation’s waters are clean, the EPA should be held to the highest standard,” Smith said. “The Science Committee needs to hear from the EPA about steps it is taking to repair the damage and to prevent this from ever occurring again.”

One official familiar with the committee but not authorized to speak said House members have been dismayed by an increased number of reports showing either incompetence or flat-out disregard in a variety of situations not limited just to the Animas River spill.

And at least one state senator has started an investigation into allegations that the EPA purposely caused the spill to create a Superfund site – a designation that the tiny town of Silverton has repeatedly rebuffed.

“EPA gets a failing grade from me for pursuing an extreme agenda at the expense of our nation’s economy, American interests, and, in this case, environmental protection,” Smith told Watchdog. “The more I review reports from the spill, the more questions I have about EPA’s faulty processes and failure to communicate with local residents and officials.”