Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act - H.R.589 / S.2503

"A bill to establish Department of Energy policy for science and energy research and development programs, and reform National Laboratory management and technology transfer programs, and for other purposes."
Primary Sponsors
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) / Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Final outcome

President signed amended version of H.R.589 into law, Sept. 28, 2018

Summary of Selected Provisions
  • Provides the first-ever full authorization of the DOE Office of Science, establishing statutory direction for its primary research program offices and other major programs such as Energy Innovation Hubs and Energy Frontier Research Centers.
  • Many provisions derive from the "North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016," a major energy policy bill that came close to passing during the 114th Congress.
  • Directs DOE to continue identifying opportunities to conduct and support crosscutting R&D, demonstration, and commercialization efforts
  • Authorizes research initiatives in solar fuels and electricity storage, and re-establishes the low-dose radiation research program
  • Directs DOE to construct an advanced nuclear research reactor featuring a versatile fast neutron source, and establishes a National Reactor Innovation Center to enable private sector collaboration (removed by amendment in Senate)
Actions on the House bill
President signed amended version of the bill into law
Sept. 28, 2018
House passed amended version of the bill by voice vote
Sept. 13, 2018
Senate passed amended version of the bill by voice vote
July 23, 2018
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved bill
March 8, 2018
House passed bill by voice vote
Jan. 24, 2017
Bill introduced
Jan. 20, 2017
Actions on the Senate bill
Senate passed amended version of the bill by voice vote
July 23, 2018
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved bill
March 8, 2018
Bill introduced
March 6, 2018
Status update

The provisions that the Senate removed in H.R.589 relating to nuclear energy were included in the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (S.97), which was enacted separately on Sept. 28, 2018.

Relevant FYI Bulletins

Congress sent two bills to the president last week that provide policy direction to the Department of Energy Office of Science and Office of Nuclear Energy, respectively. The House also passed legislation to establish a National Quantum Initiative, which now awaits action in the Senate.

The House Science Committee held a hearing earlier this month at which witnesses testified to the value of the Department of Energy’s recently terminated research program on low dose radiation. Despite bipartisan congressional support for the research, DOE has been reluctant to continue work in the area.

The House energy research and innovation bill would provide the first-ever comprehensive policy guidance to the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The House and Senate failed to reach a compromise on a sweeping energy policy bill with numerous R&D-related provisions before the end of the 114th Congress. The effort may be revived in the new Congress, but the character of the bill could change considerably since the Republicans will control the White House as well as both chambers of Congress.

This week, the House Science Committee held a hearing to investigate the firing of a Department of Energy scientist following a briefing that she and two other DOE scientists gave to congressional staff on the department’s Low Dose Radiation Research Program. Republican committee members linked the incident to what they allege is a larger “pattern of intentional misinformation from Obama Administration officials.”

If the energy bill is to become law before the end of this Congress, the conference committee led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski will have to successfully hash out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, including on research and advanced nuclear reactor development at the Energy Department and critical minerals exploration at the Interior Department.