OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms NRC official after hold

State of Play: The Senate confirmed William Ostendorff to a second term on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Thursday evening, shortly after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) lifted his procedural his hold on the nominee.

Ostendorff's current term was slated to expire at day's end.

Sanders ended his hold after he said he received assurances from the Justice Department that it will not intervene in a legal fight over the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. 

Here’s more on Sanders’ now-lifted hold, which involves a dispute over the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. Sanders and state officials are seeking to prevent continued operation of the plant after its 40-year federal license expires next year.

The NRC has already granted a 20-year extension, but state officials have not granted permission to extend the plant's life. The owner of the nuclear plant, Entergy Corp., is suing Vermont over its refusal to permit continued operation.

NEWS BITES:

Lugar floats broad plan to curb oil imports

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) floated a sweeping energy bill Thursday aimed at cutting oil imports through expanded U.S. production, programs to boost biofuels and ongoing auto mileage gains.

Lugar’s office estimates that by 2030 the plan – which also contains a suite of home and building efficiency provisions – will curb oil import needs by 50 percent and save Americans $33 billion annually.

The oil-and-gas provisions include tax incentives for “enhanced oil production” using carbon dioxide injections, as well as opening new offshore areas to drilling in Alaska and elsewhere.

Click here for a detailed summary of the plan.

The proposal drew a quick cheer from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who called it a “thoughtful bill that would strengthen our energy security and help save significant amounts of energy.”

“I’m particularly grateful that he’s recognized the tremendous energy resources located in my home state of Alaska,” Murkowski said in a statement.

The bill was met with a number of supportive statements Thursday from groups including the Bipartisan Policy Center (a think tank founded by several former Senate majority leaders), the ethanol trade group Growth Energy and the Alliance to Save Energy.

The Alliance cheered the raft of home, building and industrial energy efficiency provisions, such as low-cost financing for energy-saving upgrades.

The group notes, for instance, that, “By accelerating deployment of energy-saving equipment and processes in U.S manufacturing with a self-sustaining, low-cost loan program administered by state and local governments, the bill would save 1.1 quadrillion Btu per year and boost American competitiveness.”

Energy legislation -- especially a broad, multi-faceted plan -- faces major hurdles in the current Congress.

But Lugar has worked with Democrats in the past. Last year his collaboration with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) led to a provision in the Wall Street reform law that mandates greater oil industry disclosure of payments to foreign governments.

Alaska gov plans oil-and-gas lease sale adjacent ANWR

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) is planning a major oil-and-gas lease sale later this year on state lands, including areas adjacent to the protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“Importantly, some of the known oil and gas plays on state land straddle highly prospective federal lands, including the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) and the 1002 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). By drilling on state land and waters adjacent to NPR-A and ANWR, developers may end up drawing untapped oil that lies beneath these federal lands,” states a summary of Alaska’s plan.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce official used the announcement to call on the Obama administration to boost drilling on federal lands too.

“I hope that policymakers in Washington will take notice of the example set by Alaska’s leaders by allowing more access to our oil and gas resources which will create jobs and improve our energy security,” said Karen Harbert, CEO of the chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, in a statement.

Bloomberg has more on the state plans here, and Dow Jones has more here.

Rush presses GOP to hold hearing on wildfires and nuclear facilities

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) called on a top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on the effect of wildfires and other disasters on nuclear facilities.

The hearings comes after a massive wildfire in New Mexico threatened the Energy Department’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, which conducts nuclear and national security research. 

“In light of recent events that have put some of the nation’s nuclear facilities at risk, including the Las Conchas fire, which continues to jeopardize thousands of barrels of nuclear waste stored above ground at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, I believe it is imperative that we examine the procedures and protocols for how the nation stores its nuclear byproducts,” Rush, the top Democrat on the panel’s Energy and Power Subcommittee, said in a letter, which was address to subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.). 

DOE scores building efficiency partners

Fourteen companies and cities, including Best Buy and Los Angeles, agreed to partner with the Energy Department to make buildings more energy efficient.

The move is part of President Obama’s Better Building Initiative, which seeks to make country’s buildings 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020. The initiative is headed up by Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and former President Bill Clinton. 

The following companies said Thursday they are participating in the project: Best Buy, Green Sports Alliance, Lend Lease, Transwestern, USAA Real Estate Company, Abundant Power, Citi, Green Campus Partners, Metrus Energy and Transcend Equity.

The project also includes the following cities: Atlanta, Los Angeles and Seattle. 

DOE: Interest in SPR oil ‘very high’

The Energy Department said Thursday that it has received more than 90 offers to buy the 30 million barrels of oil the administration agreed to sell as part of an international effort to make up for supply disruptions from the unrest in Libya.

The sale was “substantially oversubscribed,” DOE said.

If all of the 30 million barrels are sold, it will be the largest SPR oil sale in U.S. history. A president has authorized SPR sales to combat supply disruptions only twice since the reserve was established in the 1970s.

NOAA joins forces with Western governors

The Western Governors’ Association signed an agreement Thursday with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to improve research on climate change and extreme weather like droughts, floods and wildfires.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

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

- Exxon, parrying attacks, launches natural gas website
- Sanders says DOJ won’t intervene in Vermont nuke plant case
- Aide: Committee heads at impasse on 'clean energy standard'
- EPA to unveil final Clean Air transport rule next week
- Clean-energy advocates on alert after Senate vote to kill ethanol subsidies
- Kline hammers Massey for 'systemic failure' to protect Upper Big Branch miners

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

Follow us on Twitter: @E2Wire, @AndrewRestuccia, @Ben_Geman

--This post was updated at 7:01 p.m.