Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Energy R&D has emerged as a focal point for bipartisan collaboration in the new Congress. At recent hearings, lawmakers heard testimony in favor of large spending increases spread across a variety of technologies.

The 116th Congress has ushered in new leaders for several committees with jurisdiction over science agencies.

Recently enacted legislation provides new congressional backing for the nation’s earthquake monitoring and drought information systems. Though Congress did not pass other bills supporting volcano and landslide monitoring before it adjourned, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has indicated she remains committed to working on them and has identified climate change as a hazard that also warrants action.

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.

President Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Energy’s Office of Science received bipartisan praise at a Senate confirmation hearing on June 26, while Democratic senators expressed concerns about his nominee to lead the department’s renewable energy R&D office.

A recent Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing highlighted the central role the U.S. Geological Survey plays in natural hazards monitoring. Experts also endorsed several pending bills that would expand early detection and mapping capabilities for earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides.

At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee hearing this week on the Department of Energy’s national labs, committee members praised the labs’ technology development and commercialization activities. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) also announced his introduction of a bipartisan bill authorizing a DOE initiative for funding technology maturation projects.

At a recent Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee hearing convened to highlight innovative technologies to increase water infrastructure resiliency, the three members present also emphasized the importance of forecasting investments to the nation's water security.

Paul Dabbar and Mark Menezes, President Trump’s nominees for the two open under secretary positions in the Department of Energy, are awaiting confirmation. DOE is currently considering reconfiguring the positions’ responsibilities, with potential implications for how the department coordinates its R&D portfolio.

House appropriators have released a draft bill that proposes flat funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science, a major cut to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the defunding of ARPA–E. However, key senators are signaling their resistance to cuts at DOE, portending a possible standoff between the chambers.