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Agency seeks to determine $12 million in connection with solar work at OSU, OIT.



Gov. Kate Brown says she will encourage a state investigation into potential fraudulent use of almost $12 million in energy tax credits in connection with the installation of solar panels at Oregon State University and Oregon Institute of Technology.

Such an investigation would be conducted by the Oregon Department of Justice, whose spokeswoman, Kristina Edmunson, said Wednesday: “We are reviewing the matter.”

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who leads the agency, does not usually discuss publicly whether an investigation is in progress – although she confirmed one was underway a few days before John Kitzhaber announced his resignation as governor amid influence-peddling allegations against him and fiancée Cylvia Hayes.

The attorney general is a separately elected official.

The matter came up during a briefing last week by Michael Kaplan, director of the Oregon Department of Energy, with the governor’s staff.

Kristen Grainger, Gov. Brown’s chief spokeswoman, says in a statement:

“As part of their regular briefings with the Governor's Office, Department of Energy staff shared this situation and their plan to talk with the Department of Justice about pursuing an investigation, which the Governor's Office agreed was appropriate to do and encouraged them to go ahead.”

Rachel Wray, a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy, confirmed that Kaplan had approached the Department of Justice last week about an investigation into the credits.

According to an account in The Oregonian, $11.8 million in the questioned business energy tax credits was about half the $23.5 million cost of the solar installations, which are owned by limited liability companies set up by SolarCity of San Mateo, Calif. The developer took over in 2012 for Renewable Energy Development Corp., a Utah business that went bankrupt in December 2011.

The documents used to qualify an extension for completion of the projects — and the tax credits — purport to show that the arrays were under construction before a deadline of April 15, 2011.

Tax credits are subtracted directly from what a business owes in corporate taxes.

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