Since its creation, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and its predecessors have considered, reported, and overseen some of the most important legislation ever enacted by the United States Congress.

This far-reaching legislative activity can be described in the following major areas: energy resources and development, including regulation, conservation, strategic petroleum reserves and appliance standards; nuclear energy; Indian affairs; public lands and their renewable resources; surface mining, Federal coal, oil, and gas, other mineral leasing; territories and insular possessions; and water resources.

The Energy Committee has distinguished itself as among the most nonpartisan, or bipartisan, in the Senate. Because the issues considered affect regional more than partisan interests, the panel has traditionally approached its work in a consensus building mode. Most policy considerations occur among members prior to public discussion of an issue, so that by the time the panel reports a measure, controversy has been abated and the vote is as close to unanimous as possible. Much of this consensual approach has been attributed to the narrow margin afforded the majority party on the Committee.

The Energy and Natural Resources panel is generally a constituent-oriented committee. The panel has retained primarily State-related interest for Senators and has kept a Western emphasis in its composition. However, world events and the 1977 restructuring of committee jurisdiction have affected the geographic composition of the panel in the last decade. A few Senators from energy-poor States have been attracted to the panel to protect their State's interests in the face of energy shortages and rising energy prices. Also, the addition of domestic atomic energy production, coal, and other energy matters to the Committee's jurisdiction attracted Members seeking to serve the interests of their State. Finally, energy issues have enticed Senators with personal policy interests in energy. Yet, for the most part, jurisdictional changes have served to reinforce the Committee's constituency orientation.