OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Republicans pile on over nomination of nuke official

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and the top Republicans on the panel echoed McConnell’s sentiments later Wednesday. Senate Republicans scheduled a press conference Thursday on the issue.

Svinicki and three of her colleagues, including two Democrats, wrote a letter to the White House last year alleging that Jaczko is causing “serious damage” to the agency that could harm the body’s ability to protect health and safety.

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The letter was released publicly shortly after an NRC inspector general report exposed major tensions within the agency. The report quoted anonymous NRC staffers who alleged that Jaczko created a tense atmosphere at the agency and, in some instances, berated employees.

Svinicki also initially raised concerns about Jaczko’s timeline for implementing new safety rules put forward in the aftermath of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The White House declined to say whether Obama would re-nominate Svinicki Wednesday.

"The Administration agrees that we need a strong NRC, and that will continue to be a priority," White House spokesman Clark Stevens said in a statement. "Whenever a nomination is made, it should be considered expeditiously to make sure there is no break in June."


NEWS BITES:

House GOP energy bills pile up

House Natural Resources Committee Republicans unveiled several bills Wednesday aimed at mandating wider onshore oil-and-gas leasing and other steps to expand development.

They include bills that set a floor on the amount of acreage that must be leased for oil-and-gas drilling and other projects, ensure streamlined environmental review and limit the Interior Department’s ability to withdraw or cancel leases.

Another measure sets new deadlines for acting on drilling permit applications and creates new limits on judicial review of energy projects. All the bills are available here.

Senate panel to explore effect of sea level rise

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will gather Thursday for a hearing on the impact of rising sea levels on domestic energy and water infrastructure.

Witnesses will include NASA’s chief scientist and other experts. More info here.

Republicans hope House vote boosts Keystone pressure on Obama

Republicans are trying to gain political momentum for the Keystone oil XL pipeline by touting Democratic votes for the House transportation bill approved Wednesday, which mandates a permit for the project.

The bill drew 69 Democratic votes. And while many Democrats said they backed the bill simply to enable House-Senate talks on the transportation funding package, Republicans claimed a win on Keystone.

“I certainly hope this will increase pressure on all of the Democrats who run Washington, particularly the Senate Democratic leaders and the president, to allow this sensible, bipartisan project which will create tens of thousands of America jobs to go forward, because I think we all know the alternative is for North American energy and jobs to go to China,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

House to review renewable energy tax credits

Two House Science, Space and Technology Committee panels will meet Thursday to explore renewable energy tax policies.

Tax credits that are vital for wind power projects are slated to expire at year’s end — their renewal is highly uncertain, while some other incentives have already lapsed.

“The purpose of the hearing is to examine recently expired, current, and proposed renewable energy tax preferences, and their impact on the commercial application of renewable energy technologies,” the committee said.

House panel to examine upcoming Interior 'fracking' rules

A House panel will examine the effect of upcoming Interior Department “fracking” regulations on Indian tribal energy development.

The hearing, which includes testimony from a top Bureau of Land Management official, will give Republicans their latest public forum to take aim at Obama administration plans to beef up oversight of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Fracking involves high-pressure injections of sand, water and chemicals that allow natural gas trapped in rock formations to flow.

The hearing comes one day after the Environmental Protection Agency issued final regulations aimed at reducing toxic air pollution from fracking.

While the agency made a key concession to industry in the final rules, that didn’t stop Republicans from bashing the administration over them. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), for example, said the regulations were part of the administration’s “war on natural gas.”

But the administration is working to balance its desire for expanded oil-and-gas development with what it says is a need to improve oversight. It’s a tricky needle to thread, particularly amid aggressive attacks from Republicans. But the administration has tried to take its energy plan to the American people during a series of high-profile speeches in recent weeks.

President Obama, for example, used his State of the Union address to tout the importance of natural gas.

And in an effort to reassure industry groups that are concerned about overlapping federal regulations, Obama announced the formation of a high-level task force last week charged with coordinating oversight of fracking.

At the same time, the Interior Department is slated to soon unveil regulations for fracking on public land, and EPA is conducting a study on the public health effects of the practice.

Read more about the new EPA rules here.

USGS releases new estimates of oil, gas resources

The U.S. Geological Survey released new estimates of the world’s technically recoverable oil and natural-gas resources Wednesday.

Reuters breaks down the numbers:

“Regions outside of the United States hold 20 percent more untapped conventional natural gas and about 13 percent less oil than previously estimated, according to a U.S. government report released on Wednesday.”

Read the new estimates here.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

Here's a quick roundup of Wednesday E2 stories:

- House GOP, thwarting Obama, clears highway bill with pipeline mandate
- EPA finalizes first-ever air pollution rules for natural-gas 'fracking'
- Romney energy adviser lands on Time’s ‘most influential’ list
- BP, plaintiffs ask judge to approve $7.8 billion oil-spill settlement
- Obama campaign ‘honored’ to have green groups' endorsement
- McConnell pressures White House to re-nominate Republican nuclear official
- Four green groups officially back Obama's reelection campaign

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

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