About the Committee

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.

Bills Reported out of Committee in 2015

S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act (EPMA) was reported out by a vote of 18-4, with 10 Republicans and eight Democrats voting in support. The committee held six legislative hearings on more than 114 introduced bills as part of the EPMA process. The committee also considered 59 amendments during markup of the bill. EPMA contains provisions to improve electric reliability and energy efficiency; promote the development of hydropower, geothermal, and methane hydrates; enhance cybersecurity efforts; bolster mineral security; reform the federal permitting process; and repeal a range of obsolete authorities within the U.S. Code. Title IV of EPMA permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in a way that balances land acquisition with other conservation programs important to states, and also permanently reauthorizes the Historic Preservation Fund. To address the problem of needed maintenance at the national parks, Title V establishes a National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund. EPMA also includes measures that were introduced as standalone bills or that are similar to introduced standalone bills such as:

  • S. 33, The LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act (Sen. Barrasso)
  • S. 883, The American Mineral Security Act of 2015 (Sen. Murkowski)
  • S. 1210, Oil and Gas Production and Distribution Reform Act of 2015 (Sen. Capito)
  • S. 1221, Bulk-Power System Reliability Impact Statement Act (Sen. Murkowski)
  • Repeal of fossil fuel phase-out by 2030 for Federal buildings

S. 2011, Offshore Production and Energizing National Security Act of 2015 (OPENS Act) lifts the outdated ban on exporting most U.S. crude oil. The legislation opens additional areas of the Gulf of Mexico and Southern Atlantic to leasing, streamlines key permitting processes, directs revenue sharing for affected states, and establishes important protections for coastal viewsheds. The bill also requires additional lease sales in Alaska, including annual lease sales in newly established Nearshore Beaufort Sea Area and the Cook Inlet Planning Area. OPENS also includes significant measures that were introduced as standalone bills or that are very similar to introduced standalone bills such as:

  • S. 1276, The Gulf of Mexico Offshore Energy and Jobs Act (Sen. Cassidy)
  • S. 1279, The Southern Atlantic Energy Security Act (Sen. Warner)
  • S. 1312, The Energy Supply and Distribution Act (Sen. Murkowski)
S. 556, the Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, was reported out by the committee by voice vote. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Murkowski, establishs a new national policy for federal agencies to expand and enhance sportsmen’s opportunities and make “open unless closed” the standard for access to federal lands throughout the United States. Additionally, the Sportsmen's Act permanently reauthorizes the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act. Other significant measures incorporated into the Sportsmen’s Act include:
  • Bows in Parks
  • Open Book on Equal Access to Justice

S. 1, a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline energy project. The committee approved this legislation on a bipartisan 13-9 vote and sent it to full Senate for consideration.

S. 145, a bill to require the Director of the National Park Service to refund to States all State funds that were used to reopen and temporarily operate a unit of the National Park System during the October 2013 shutdown. (Sen. Flake)

S. 403, a bill to revise the authorized route of the North Country National Scenic Trail in northeastern Minnesota and to extend the trail into Vermont to connect with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and for other purposes. (Sen. Klobuchar)

S. 521, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study of President Station in Baltimore, Maryland, and for other purposes. (Sen. Cardin)

S. 583, a bill to establish certain wilderness areas in central Idaho and to authorize various land conveyances involving National Forest System land and Bureau of Land Management land in central Idaho, and for other purposes. (Sen. Risch)

S. 593, a bill to require the Secretary of the Interior to submit to Congress a report on the efforts of the Bureau of Reclamation to manage its infrastructure assets. (Sen. Barrasso)

S. 610, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study of P.S. 103 in West Baltimore, Maryland and for other purposes. (Sen. Cardin)

S. 720, a bill to promote energy savings in residential buildings and industry, and for other purposes. (Sen. Portman)

S. 873, a bill to designate the wilderness within the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in the State of Alaska as the Jay S. Hammond Wilderness Area. (Sen. Murkowski)

S. 1103, a bill to reinstate and extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project involving Clark Canyon Dam. (Sen. Daines)

S. 1104, a bill to extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project involving the Gibson Dam. (Sen. Daines)

S. 1240, a bill to designate the Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio Wilderness Areas in the State of New Mexico, and for other purposes. (Sen. Heinrich)

S. 1305, a bill to amend the Colorado River Storage Project Act to authorize the use of the active capacity of the Fontenelle Reservoir. (Sen. Barrasso)

S. 1483, a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability and feasibility of designating the James K. Polk Home in Columbia, Tennessee, as a unit of the National Park System, and for other purposes. (Sen. Alexander)

S. 329, the Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook Wild and Scenic River Act, which would amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate certain segments of the Farmington River and Salmon Brook in Connecticut as components of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. (Sen. Murphy)

S. 782, the Grand Canyon Bison Management Act, which would direct the Secretary of the Interior to establish a bison management plan for Grand Canyon National Park. (Sen. McCain)

S. 1583, a bill to authorize the expansion of an existing hydroelectric project at Terror Lake, Alaska. (Sen. Murkowski)

S. 1592, a bill to clarify the description of certain federal land under the Northern Arizona Land Exchange and Verde River Basin Partnership Act of 2005 to include additional land in the Kaibab National Forest. (Sen. Flake)

S. 1694, the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act of 2015. (Sen. Cantwell)

S. 1941 (Sen. Gardner) /H.R. 2223 (Rep. Lamborn), the Crags, Colorado Land Exchange Act of 2015, which would authorize, direct, expedite, and facilitate a land exchange in El Paso and Teller Counties, Colorado, and for other purposes.

S. 1942 (Sen. Gardner) /H.R. 1554 (Rep. Tipton), the Elkhorn Ranch and White River National Forest Conveyance Act of 2015, to require a land conveyance involving the Elkhorn Ranch and the White River National Forest in the State of Colorado, and for other purposes.

S. 2046, a bill to authorize the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue an order continuing a stay of a hydroelectric license for the Mahoney Lake hydroelectric project in the State of Alaska, and for other purposes. (Sen. Murkowski)

S. 2069, the Mount Hood Cooper Spur Land Exchange Clarification Act, a bill to amend the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 to modify provisions relating to certain land exchanges in the Mt. Hood Wilderness in the State of Oregon. (Sen. Wyden)

S. 2083, a bill to extend the deadline for commencement of construction of the W. Kerr Scott Hydroelectric Project hydroelectric project. (Sen. Burr)

H.R. 373, the Good Samaritan Search and Recovery Act, which would direct the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to expedite access to certain federal land under their jurisdiction for good Samaritan search-and-recovery missions. (Rep. Heck)

H.R. 1324, the Arapaho National Forest Boundary Adjustment Act of 2015, to adjust the boundary of the Arapaho National Forest, Colorado, and for other purposes. (Rep. Polis)

Nominations Reported Out of the Committee in 2015

Nomination of Suzette M. Kimball, Ph.D. to be Director of the United States Geological Survey.

Nomination of Cherry Ann Murray, Ph.D. to be Director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy.

Nomination of Ms. Victoria Marie Baecher Wassmer to be Under Secretary of Energy.

Nomination of Mr. John Francis Kotek to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy (Nuclear Energy).

Nomination of Mr. Jonathan Elkind to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy (International Affairs).