OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Climate showdown

“Greenhouse gas pollution, through its contribution to global climate change, presents a significant threat to Americans’ health and to the environment upon which our economy and security depends,” McCarthy’s prepared testimony states.

“The history of the Clean Air Act since 1970 makes clear that clean air and a healthy economy have gone hand in hand,” she plans to tell the panel.

The GOP memo and McCarthy's prepared remarks are available here.

Interior drilling plan draws GOP, industry jeers

The Interior Department on Thursday rolled out its final offshore oil-and-gas leasing plan for 2012-2017, drawing immediate criticism from Republicans and industry groups who say it leaves too many areas off-limits to drilling rigs.

The plan calls for a total of 15 lease sales in Gulf of Mexico and offshore Alaska, including two sales of tracts in Arctic waters off Alaska’s northern coast.

“Put simply, this program opens the vast majority of known offshore oil and gas resources for development over the next five years and includes a cautious but forward-looking leasing strategy for the Alaska Arctic,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a statement.

The plan is similar to draft floated in late 2011, but one of the lease sales in Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast, in the Beaufort Sea, has been pushed back from 2015 to 2017 in the final plan.

Republicans and industry groups attacked the plan.

They have been pushing for leasing off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, arguing the areas should not be kept off-limits because formal leasing bans expired in 2008, and they also want a more aggressive leasing program in the Arctic.

“Today’s proposal will not allow us to realize the full benefits from safe and responsible development of America’s oil and natural gas resources, continuing a pattern of delay and unnecessary restraint,” said Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute.

But Interior officials defended the plan, arguing that it provides various needed protections for the Arctic, such as a 25-mile buffer near the coast of the Chukchi Sea and exclusion of whaling areas from leasing, while ensuring access to substantial oil-and-gas resources.

“President Obama has made clear his commitment to expanding responsible domestic oil and gas production in America as part of this all-of-the-above energy strategy, and with comprehensive safety standards in place, this plan will help us to continue to grow America’s energy economy and further reduce our dependence on foreign oil, while protecting marine, costal and human health,” Salazar said.

Stearns, eyeing end of Solyndra probe, plans loan fix bill

The GOP point man in the probe of Solyndra said he hopes to steer legislation through the Energy and Commerce Committee this summer that alters the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program.

“I’m hoping to do it before August, before the August break,” Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who heads the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.

Stearns has led the probe of Solyndra, the California solar panel manufacturer that got a $535 million Energy Department loan guarantee in 2009 but went belly-up last year.

He said the investigation — which has involved subpoenas for White House documents — is in its closing phases.

Stearns said committee investigators still plan to interview two more people: White House energy aide Heather Zichal and Aditya Kumar, the former deputy assistant to the vice president and senior adviser to former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

He said the interviews have not been scheduled, but that he’s hoping for White House cooperation and that he wants to do them soon. Stearns said another remaining step is White House certification that it has complied with the document demands.

“That is the key, I think, to closing this thing up, is getting those two [interviews] and getting the certification of the [White House] counsel,” Stearns told reporters in the Capitol Thursday.

He said there would be a “full report” wrapping up the Solyndra investigation in addition to the legislation. Stearns said the bill would make several changes to the loan guarantee program.

“It would say that before you do any of these green energy loan guarantees, that you do a marketing survey to find out if it is economically feasible, what the competition is ... the viability,” he said.

Other provisions would ensure “punitive measures” if there’s “subordination” of a DOE-backed loan. Energy Department officials, when Solyndra was in rough financial shape, restructured the loan in early 2011 to allow private investors providing additional capital to be repaid before taxpayers if the company collapsed.

Republicans have strongly criticized the subordination of taxpayer interest, while administration officials defended the move as a needed step to try and save the struggling company.

Stearns said the bill would also ensure better coordination between the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Energy Department and the Treasury Department on loan guarantees.


Check out these stories that ran on E2-Wire Thursday ...

- State Department exempts China from Iranian oil sanctions
- Another DOE-backed solar panel company goes belly-up
- Enviros decry loss of conservation funds in highway bill
- Appropriators send bill slashing EPA to floor
- Chamber of Commerce CEO says he pushed US accession to Law of the Sea Treaty

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