OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Green energy CEOs to face loan questions

“This administration’s Department of Energy continues to make reckless bets with taxpayer funds followed by deceptive claims about the program’s effects on job creation, or lack thereof. This hearing will explain what recipients of billions of dollars of taxpayer funds are doing with the money and the risks associated with DOE’s irresponsible gamble,” said a spokeswoman for Issa.

But Obama administration officials have strongly defended the loan guarantees issued through the 2009 stimulus law (using authority first provided in a bipartisan 2005 energy bill).

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Defenders say that while Solyndra was unfortunate, the program has succeeded in backing companies that have created jobs and helped expand deployment of renewable component manufacturing and green power generation.

Obama administration officials have pointed to the White House-commissioned outside review released in February that provided a lower estimate of taxpayer risk than an earlier forecast.

Look for the CEOs to defend their companies and the loan program, which is backing projects including the huge Ivanpah solar power plant that BrightSource is building in California’s Mojave Desert. 

The Energy Department is providing a $1.6 billion loan guarantee for the project.

“Going forward, we expect to finance our future projects commercially. As such, the loan guarantee program served an important role in the market, allowing our project to achieve meaningful scale, drive down costs, validate our technology and enable a new industry to succeed — in short, creating the necessary conditions to allow commercial financing,” said BrightSource CEO John Woolard in his testimony submitted to the House panel.


NEWS BITES:

House panels to mark up oil leasing, EPA bills

A pair of House committees are marking up energy bills this week that include provisions to speed up oil-and-gas development and delay several EPA air pollution regulations.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday will begin its markup of a bill that would delay several rules — such as new fuel emissions standards and ozone rules — while an interagency committee reviews their effect on gasoline prices.

A second bill requires an increase in federal lands offered for oil and natural-gas drilling if the administration decides to draw oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Tomorrow will bring opening statements only; the rest of the action comes Thursday.

Meanwhile, the House Natural Resources Committee will mark up several GOP bills Wednesday that address onshore energy development.

The bills would 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.


They also set new deadlines for acting on drilling permit applications and create new limits on judicial review of energy projects, among other provisions. More here.

Senate panel to probe corporate environmental practices

A Senate Environment and Public Works Committee panel will hear from officials with a handful of large corporations Wednesday about their environmental practices.

The hearing — titled "Growing Long-Term Value: Corporate Environmental Responsibility and Innovation" — will include officials from companies such as Intel, GE, Procter & Gamble and others.

Obama administration revives focus on idle leases

The Interior Department issued a report Tuesday claiming that more than 70 percent of land leased by companies for oil-and-gas development is sitting idle, in the latest attempt to deflect GOP criticism of Obama’s energy policy.

“We continue to offer new areas onshore and offshore for leasing, as we have over the last three years, and we also want companies to develop the tens of millions of acres they’ve already leased but have left sitting idle in order to further reduce our reliance on foreign oil as quickly as possible,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement on the report.

The report also finds that oil companies are not producing or exploring on 56 percent of federal onshore land that they’ve leased.

“These lands and waters belong to the American people, and they expect those energy supplies to be developed in a timely and responsible manner and with a fair return to taxpayers,” Salazar said. “We will continue to encourage companies to diligently bring production online quickly and safely on public lands already under lease.”

The Obama administration has long taken aim at idle leases to counter Republican claims that the president isn’t doing enough to expand domestic oil-and-gas development. The logic goes like this: If the oil industry isn’t taking advantage of the leases it has, why rush to give them more?

The report prompted Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's Morning Report: Can Trump close the deal with North Korea? Senate must save itself by confirming Mike Pompeo Poll: Menendez has 17-point lead over GOP challenger MORE (D-N.J.) to call on Congress to pass his “use it, or lose it” legislation. The bill would impose a fee on non-producing leases and require companies to show they're planning to "diligently develop" their tracts.

The Interior Department, after releasing a similar report last year, imposed measures aimed at encouraging oil companies to develop their leases.

The American Petroleum Institute, the powerful oil industry group, called the report an effort by the Obama administration to “divert attention from the fact it has been restricting oil and natural gas development, leasing less often, shortening lease terms, and going slow on permit approvals.”

“It’s absurd to contend the industry pays the government billions of dollars every year in bonus bids and rents to leave land idle. It develops leases as expeditiously as it can — often in the face of inordinate delays the administration’s own policies create,” API President Jack Gerard said in a statement.

EPA chief to appear before Senate panel

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson defend her agency’s fiscal 2013 budget request Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

Expect lawmakers, especially Republicans, to question Jackson about recently finalized regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions at new power plants.

Jackson has become a regular fixture on Capitol Hill in recent years, with GOP lawmakers aggressively pummeling the official over the agency’s regulations.

EPA's FY2013 budget request of $8.344 billion is $105 million below fiscal 2012 enacted levels, according to the agency.

"The FY 2013 budget is the result of EPA’s ongoing efforts to carefully consider potential cost savings and reductions while continuing its commitment to core environmental and health protections — safeguarding Americans from pollution in the air they breathe, the water they drink and the land where they build their communities," EPA said in a statement previewing Jackson's remarks.

Rep. Price to speak at The Hill's policy briefing

The Hill is hosting a policy briefing Wednesday morning with Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.). Price is slated to discuss "monetary policy, gas prices and the impact on small businesses" ahead of National Small Business Week, May 20-26.

The event begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Liaison Capitol Hill. Breakfast is served at 8 a.m.

Chu set to talk clean energy in Denver

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will speak Wednesday at the World Renewable Energy Forum in Denver, Colo.

Chu’s speech will focus on “the economic opportunities in the clean energy economy as well as the Obama Administration’s commitments to strengthening U.S. leadership in the global clean energy race and helping American clean energy companies continue to create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” according to the Energy Department.

CAP report: EPA rules to prevent major carbon pollution

The Center for American Progress is set to unveil a report Wednesday that says Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas regulations for new power plants would prevent 123 billion pounds of carbon pollution every year. 

You can read the full analysis Wednesday morning.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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

- Senate rejects energy amendment to Ex-Im bill
- Senate Democrats urge more stringent tax rules for Chinese solar firms
- Boxer: Highway deal will include measure to funnel oil-spill penalty money to Gulf
- Wyden, eyeing chairmanship, pledges review of green-energy programs
- Inhofe distances himself from aide's email to oil lobbyists
- Former Dem senator: Obama will eventually green-light Keystone
- Oil lobby presents energy policy wish-list to GOP, Democrats
- GOP senator: Falling pump prices ‘one less arrow’ against Obama

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

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