OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Obama's drilling plan in focus, Senate readies oil tax vote

House GOP bemoans 'tinkering': While Obama's plan won praise from key oil-state lawmakers like Sens. Begich and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), House Republicans have criticized the plan.

“One weekend address announcing minor policy tinkering, while positive, does not erase the Administration’s long job-destroying record of locking-up America’s energy resources,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said Saturday in a statement.

Hastings’ office sent reporters a backgrounder Monday aimed at undercutting Obama’s plan. “President Obama has taken our energy policy 10 miles backwards and now wants credit for moving 10 feet forward,” the backgrounder said. “The President may be headed in the right direction, but he still has a long, long way to go.”

As The Hill reported Saturday, Obama is placing renewed emphasis on speeding up drilling, but the plan itself does not represent a major shift in policy for the administration. It largely consists of incremental expansions of existing policies and had been set in motion prior to Saturday’s announcement.

Bingaman drilling bills

Salazar and the other Obama administration officials will also weigh in on two drilling bills authored by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

The bills would impose more stringent drilling-safety standards and boost loan guarantees for a planned Alaska natural-gas pipeline, among other things.

NEWS BITES:

House Foreign Affairs leaders: Toughen Iran energy sanctions

The bipartisan leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee floated plans Monday that would toughen U.S. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program — including energy-related sanctions.

“U.S. policy towards Iran has offered a lot of bark, but not enough bite. This new bipartisan legislation would bring to bear the full weight of the U.S. by seeking to close the loopholes in existing energy and financial sanctions laws, while increasing the type and number of sanctions to be imposed,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the panel’s chairwoman, in a statement.

Obama signed legislation last summer — called the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 —  that bolstered available sanctions, including the authorization of action against entities that help supply gasoline to Iran or develop its refining capacity, among other provisions.

An earlier 1996 statute already allowed sanctions against companies that invest in Iran’s energy sector. But energy sanctions have rarely been applied.

According to Ros-Lehtinen’s office, just two companies — state-owned firms from Iran and Belarus — have been sanctioned for investment in Iran’s energy sector. The new bill creates a higher bar for the administration to waive sanctions, according to a summary.

“The bill ... creates a new higher standard for waiver of energy sanctions by requiring the President, before waiving, to notify Congress and certify that failure to waive would pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security interests of the U.S.,” it states.

The Hill’s Pete Kasperowicz has much more on the bill and the politics of sanctions..

Inhofe: EPA had ‘no choice’ but to delay boiler rules

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Monday that EPA was simply bowing to reality in delaying application of new air pollution standards for industrial boilers.

“In reality, they had no choice. This rule imposes requirements that are unachievable for, among others, manufacturers, universities, and municipalities that rely on boilers for power and heat. The requirements put thousands of jobs at risk and could force many manufacturing plants to close their doors,” said Inhofe, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, in a statement.

He also said, “Congress may still need to weigh in with a legislative fix.”

Energy Dept. makes $25 million available for joint US-India projects

The Energy Department is putting some cash behind a pledge to boost joint clean energy development with India, with a focus on energy efficiency, next-wave biofuels and solar energy.

The department on Monday announced that it’s making $25 million available over five years to support the U.S.-India Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center. 

The department is soliciting applications for research funding from universities, national labs, private companies and others. More info here.

ON TAP TUESDAY:

The big stories will be the Senate vote on oil industry taxes, and the  Obama administration’s top drilling regulators' trip to Capitol Hill for a Senate hearing. But there are other noteworthy events as well ...

Clean energy summit to feature Sen. Hoeven, tech experts

Tuesday brings the second day of the National Summit on Advancing Clean Energy Technologies, which is sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Howard Baker Forum and Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Speakers include Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and an array of federal and private sector experts. Agenda here.

Chu to tout electric vehicles

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will join Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley at a groundbreaking event for a new facility to produce electric motors at an existing GM plant in Maryland.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Here’s a quick roundup of Monday’s E2 stories:

- Bingaman: Unclear if ‘clean energy standard' can clear committee

- Bingaman: No need to tap Strategic Petroleum Reserve

- Despite partisan divides on energy, White House science adviser sees room for compromise

- DSCC looks to rile activists against 'Big Oil'

- U.S. Chamber of Commerce blasts bill to repeal 'Big Oil' tax breaks

- Exxon knocks The New York Times for stance on oil tax break repeal

- EPA will halt boiler rules while agency gets more input

- GOP report: Decrease in dollar means increases at the pump

- Democrats challenge 'questionable' testimony from top coal exec

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

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This post was updated at 7:16 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.