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House Passes Energy Research and Innovation Bill

Jan 24, 2017
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) – The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously approved the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act (H.R. 589), introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). H.R. 589 provides policy direction to the Department of Energy (DOE) on basic science research, nuclear energy research and development (R&D), research coordination and priorities, and reforms to streamline national lab management.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “I am pleased to sponsor H.R. 589, the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act, which will advance basic research and set clear science priorities for the Department of Energy. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will enable the development of next generation technology and promote innovation and economic growth.  I thank Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson and my colleagues on the Science Committee, Reps. Hultgren, Knight, and Weber, for their help writing this legislation. I look forward to the Senate approving this important legislation soon.”

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas): “This bill includes the first comprehensive authorization of the DOE Office of Science, which is the largest supporter of physical sciences research in the country. This is a nearly $6 billion office that manages 10 of our national laboratories, often called the crown jewels of our national research infrastructure.

“I would like to thank Chairman Smith and his staff for working closely with us and our Senate counterparts to find common ground on a wide range of areas that will be critical to ensuring our nation’s competitiveness and our clean energy future.”

Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas): “America must maintain our nuclear capabilities, and continue to develop cutting edge technology here at home. Without the direction provided in Title IV, we’ll continue to fall further and further behind, losing the ability to develop innovative nuclear technology and be left importing next-generation reactor designs from overseas.  Title IV will maintain America’s capability to influence security and proliferation standards around the world as more developing nations look to nuclear energy to grow their economies.”

Background:

National Laboratory Reform (Title I)

Title I provides DOE national labs increased flexibility to more efficiently partner with the private sector. It also cuts red tape and bureaucracy in the DOE technology transfer process.

DOE Research Coordination (Title II)

This title requires DOE to better manage and coordinate research efforts to provide cost savings, reduce waste, and ensure that research activities are not duplicated across the Department. It also reauthorizes a Strategic Research Portfolio Analysis that will help identify key areas for collaboration across science and applied research programs. It will also allow the Secretary to pinpoint programs that cost too much and would be better accomplished by the private sector.

DOE Office of Science Policy (Title III)

Title III provides statutory direction and priorities for basic research programs within DOE’s Office of Science. This includes research in basic energy sciences, biological and environmental research, high performance computing, nuclear physics, high energy physics, and fusion energy.  Title III specifically authorizes basic research programs in solar fuels, electricity storage, exascale computing, and low dose radiation.

Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities (Title IV)

This title authorizes nuclear R&D activities at DOE and harnesses and combines the strengths of the national labs, universities, and the private sector in a joint innovation initiative. It also provides a clear timeline for DOE to complete a research reactor facility that will enable proprietary and academic research to develop supercomputing models and design next generation nuclear energy technology.

H.R. 589 includes language from the following bills that passed the House in the 114th Congress:

  • America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (Rep. Smith) (H.R. 1806)
  • DOE Lab Modernization and Technology Transfer Act (Rep. Hultgren) (H.R. 1158)
  • American Super Computing Leadership Act (Rep. Hultgren) (H.R. 874)
  • Low Dose Radiation Research Act (Rep. Hultgren) (H.R. 35)
  • Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (Rep. Weber) (H.R. 4084, H.R. 431 in the 115th Congress)
  • Solar Fuels Innovation Act (Rep. Knight) (H.R. 5638)
  • Electricity Storage Innovation Act (Rep. Smith) (H.R. 5640)

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) Floor Statement:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support H.R. 589, the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act, which I am very pleased to co-sponsor.

This bill comprises a significant set of provisions that resulted from constructive negotiations with our Majority and with the Senate as part of the energy conference last year. I am also proud to note that many of these provisions were actually first proposed in the version of the American Competes Reauthorization Act that was sponsored by every Democratic Member of the Committee in the last Congress.

The bill includes what would be the first comprehensive authorization of the DOE Office of Science, which is the largest supporter of physical sciences research in the country. This is a nearly $6 billion office that manages 10 of our national laboratories, often called the crown jewels of our national research infrastructure. Yet thus far, unlike NSF, NASA, and nearly every other major scientific research agency stewarded by the federal government, the Office of Science has not received the statutory guidance and support that its capabilities and mission warrant. So passing this portion of the bill into law alone would be a big step in the right direction.

The bill also includes a number of important technology transfer provisions that previously passed the House as part of a bipartisan bill that I and many of my colleagues on the Committee co-sponsored. In addition, it would provide the first authorization of the promising Innovation Hub model for energy research, and it would enable greater private sector engagement with ARPA-E. Finally, this bill includes an updated and improved version of the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, which I was happy to co-sponsor with my friend Mr. Weber in the last Congress.

I would like to thank Chairman Smith and his staff for working closely with us and our Senate counterparts to move beyond what began as, frankly, a rather contentious process to find common ground on a wide range of areas that will be critical to ensuring our nation’s competitiveness and our clean energy future.

I urge my colleagues to support this bill and I yield back.

115th Congress