OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Obama takes on energy security; Senate takes on climate

“If [lawmakers] vote for either of the alternatives, they are voting for something that will give them political cover, but won’t fix the problem," Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters Tuesday.

While the Senate slated to vote Wednesday on the trio of amendments, the timing and order of the votes was unclear at press time. A Senate Democratic leadership aide told The Hill earlier this week that senators will first vote on Max Baucus' (D-Mont.) amendment.

All the amendments face major hurdles to passage. But Wednesday’s votes will force vulnerable Democrats to weigh in on EPA’s climate change rules — a scenario that Republicans are relishing in the run-up to the 2012 elections.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has offered the amendment that would permanently block EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. McConnell’s amendment mirrors a bill introduced by Inhofe.

Companion legislation has been approved by a key House committee and is expected to come up for a vote in the full House in the coming weeks.

Two Democrats have offered less stringent amendments to limit EPA’s climate authority. An amendment by Baucus would codify EPA plans to exempt small polluters from climate rules and exempt the agriculture sector from the rules. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has introduced an amendment to the bill that would delay EPA climate rules for two years.

Republicans blasted the Baucus and Rockefeller amendments Tuesday.

“When you look at the vote we’re going to have to tomorrow, I think you’re going to find out who is serious about creating jobs,” Thune said.

Thune continued later: "If they’re looking for political cover, they can probably vote for Baucus or for Rockefeller. If they’re serious about solving the problem, they’ll vote for McConnell.”

McConnell added: “[The votes] will be an opportunity for everybody to go on record so that everybody will know how the senators feel about this massive regulation, which is going to have an extraordinarily adverse impact on our economy.”

Developing: Another amendment is in the mix.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has floated an amendment that would also delay the EPA rules for two years as well as exempt agriculture from greenhouse gas rules and boost a tax credit program for manufacturing green-energy equipment, among other provisions. It was not clear at press time whether it would receive a vote.

Wednesday’s Big Story II: Obama talks energy security

President Obama will "outline his plan for America's energy security" with a speech Wednesday at Georgetown University, the White House said.

The speech shows that Obama is pivoting from the recent focus on Libya to parry GOP attacks on White House energy policies that have intensified amid the rise in gas prices.

The speech is under wraps, but the White House signaled this week that curbing oil use through advanced and efficient vehicles is a major focus of administration energy efforts.

The White House said that on Friday, Obama will visit a UPS shipping facility in Landover, Md., and “view vehicles from AT&T, FedEx, PepsiCo, UPS and Verizon’s clean fleets and deliver remarks to the companies’ employees.”

And it comes a day after the administration issued a report that claimed the oil-and-gas industry is sitting on millions of acres of unused leases — a de facto rebuttal to industry and GOP proposals to open new areas to drilling.

Republicans are already prepping their messages on the speech. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, scheduled a Wednesday afternoon session with reporters to respond.

They’re also offering some advice.

“I hope what he says is that we need to find more American energy, use less energy and save money and create jobs. We do that by exploring for more American oil offshore, on federal lands and in Alaska, by exploring for more natural gas — we have a 200-year supply of natural gas — and by a search for clean energy that’s low-cost,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, in the Capitol Tuesday.

NEWS BITES:

Industry groups go on offense against unused-leases report

The oil-and-gas industry didn’t take kindly to an Obama administration report that claims companies are sitting on large amounts of untapped acreage.

The report is a counterweight to GOP and industry calls for opening new areas for drilling, and the administration and Democrats are touting measures to pressure companies to use existing leases (an idea dubbed “use it or lose it”).

But industry groups called the report misleading and sought to discredit the findings. American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard reached out to reporters quickly after the study was released.

He called “use it or lose it” an “effort to divert the attention of the American public away from the fact that this administration has made every effort to delay or restrict our access to our resources here at home.”

The National Ocean Industries Association was similarly critical.

“Claims that the offshore industry is intentionally idling production of precious energy resources ignore the fact that it takes years of mapping, testing, exploratory drilling and construction to bring production online,” said Randall Luthi, the group’s president, in a statement.

Records show nuke plant violations

ABC News reports:

“Among the litany of violations at U.S. nuclear power plants are missing or mishandled nuclear material, inadequate emergency plans, faulty backup power generators, corroded cooling pipes and even marijuana use inside a nuclear plant, according to an ABC News review of four years of Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety records.”

Markey floats nuclear safety bill

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation Tuesday to put a moratorium on new reactor licenses or relicenses of existing plants until a series of safety requirements are met.

The requirements include showing that plants can withstand major natural disasters and longer power outages, among other things.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is undertaking a two-part review of the country’s nuclear power plants. An initial 90-day review will consider lessons learned from the Japanese nuclear crisis and a longer-term review will consider the possibility of changes to the commission’s regulations.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY:

The big events on tap are Obama's big energy speech and the Senate climate change votes we wrote about at the top of this column. But here are some of the notable hearings and events around town ... 

House drilling showdown

Michael Bromwich, the Interior Department’s top offshore drilling regulator, will do battle with House Republicans at a Natural Resources Committee hearing. The hearing is about the budget proposal for Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. It comes a day after the Interior Department issued a report alleging that oil companies are allowing millions of acres under lease to lie fallow and amid a GOP legislative push to open more areas to drilling.

Getting the gang together

Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) are reconvening the bipartisan Senate “gang” that worked on broad energy legislation in 2008 before falling apart. Check out our story here.

Federal nuke power chief to face Congress


The Senate Appropriations Committee’s energy panel will hold a hearing on the Japanese reactor crisis. Witnesses include Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Greg Jaczko.

Ag committee to tackle gas prices

The Senate Agriculture Committee holds a hearing titled “Fundamentals and Farming: Evaluating High Gas Prices and How New Rules and Innovative Farming Can Help.” Witnesses include Richard Newell, who heads the U.S. Energy Information Administration (the statistical arm of the Energy Department).

House panel to scrub DOE budget

The House Appropriations Committee’s energy panel will review the Energy Department’s fiscal 2012 budget request for renewable energy, efficiency, fossil energy and other programs.

Getting electric

The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a conference on electric power markets. Speakers including Maryam Brown, chief counsel to Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans, and Marc Spitzer, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Bingaman to talk energy

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) will speak at the Newseum at a morning event that Politico is hosting.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

Here's a quick roundup of Tuesday's E2 stories:

– A new report shows that the U.S. is slipping in the clean-energy race
– Obama will give an energy security speech Wednesday
– Former Rep Bart Gordon (R-Tenn.) joined a prominent lobbying firm
– McConnell urged a “yes” vote on his amendment to block EPA climate rules
– Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate will vote on McConnell’s amendment Wednesday
– The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will consider requiring longer-lasting backup batteries at nuclear facilities
– A top House Republican unveiled energy legislation
– An Interior Department report found millions of acres of unused oil-and-gas leases on public lands
– A bipartisan energy “gang” is being revived this week
– And a fight over ethanol blenders heated up

Please send tips and comments to Ben Geman, ben.geman@thehill.com, and Andrew Restuccia, arestuccia@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @E2Wire, @AndrewRestuccia.