Senators Murkowski and Cantwell Introduce Broad, Bipartisan Energy and Natural Resources Bill

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the committee’s ranking member, this week introduced S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 (ENRA). The bill is the successor to their broad, bipartisan legislation from the previous Congress and was placed directly on the Senate Calendar for expedited floor consideration.

Focused on a wide range of energy and natural resources opportunities and challenges, ENRA features eleven titles reflecting common ground on efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, conservation, federal land management, National Park System management, sportsmen’s issues, water infrastructure, natural hazards, and Indian energy.

The new bill builds on recent technological breakthroughs to bring substantial benefits to American families and businesses while protecting the environment. Its provisions will save energy, expand supply, prioritize innovation, modernize and secure the electric grid, boost energy trade, protect sportsmen’s access, strengthen mineral security, bolster the energy workforce, reauthorize certain conservation programs, facilitate better management of federal lands, and minimize risks from natural hazards.

“It has now been a full decade since Congress has passed legislation to modernize and reform our nation’s energy and resource policies,” Murkowski said. “We came very close to achieving that goal last year, and have continued to work with our congressional colleagues and a wide range of stakeholders to write another strong bill. This stands not only as an opening for bipartisan accomplishment, but more importantly, as a significant opportunity to boost our economic growth, improve our infrastructure, enhance our security, and bolster our global competitiveness—results that we all support and should be working toward.”

“Our energy infrastructure is under attack and we need the tools to fix it right now,” Cantwell said. “Our bipartisan legislation will not only help modernize our energy infrastructure, but secure it from extreme weather, climate change, and serious cyber threats. I am looking forward to continuing to refine this legislation through robust debate and then sending it to the President’s desk.” 

The new bill builds on the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, which included priorities from 80 Senators and passed the Senate with 85 votes. That bill fell just short in a bicameral conference with the House of Representatives at the end of last year, but provided an excellent starting point for Murkowski and Cantwell’s bipartisan efforts in this Congress.

As introduced, the Energy and Natural Resources Act features eleven titles:

  • Efficiency – Energy efficiency provides significant benefits for consumers, the economy, and the environment. The provisions in this title include agreements on everything from energy savings performance contracts to the reauthorization of the weatherization assistance and state energy programs. The efficiency of our homes, buildings, and manufacturing facilities all stand to increase as a result of it.
  • Infrastructure – We depend on electric transmission lines, pipelines, and other infrastructure to transport energy from where it is produced to where it is used. This title will help modernize our electric grid, enhance cybersecurity safeguards, streamline pipeline permitting, facilitate LNG exports, and ensure a qualified, well-trained workforce.
  • Supply – To provide for a long-term, American-made energy supply that is increasingly abundant, affordable, clean, diverse, and secure, this title focuses on the development of renewable resources, traditional energy, and non-fuel minerals alike. The responsible development of American resources – from hydropower to rare earth elements – will provide benefits to our nation for decades to come.
  • Accountability – Practical reforms are needed to advance innovation, protect electric reliability, and ensure the proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars. Among the provisions in this title are the reauthorization of certain energy-related components of the America COMPETES Act, reforms for the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program, and the repeal of numerous provisions within the U.S. Code that are outdated or redundant.
  • Conservation – To advance environmental stewardship, the bill permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund in a way that balances land acquisition with other conservation programs important to states. It also permanently reauthorizes the Historic Preservation Fund and creates a new National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund to address the maintenance backlog at some of our nation’s most treasured public places.
  • Federal Land Management – Features 22 bills affecting the major land management agencies, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The provisions in this title authorize numerous land conveyances for economic development to benefit tribes and local communities; designate wilderness in two states; allow for expedited access for search and rescue operations; and make technical corrections and clarifications to existing lands legislation.
  • National Park System Management – Packages 38 bills, including authorizations to conduct special resource studies of certain sites to assess the suitability and feasibility of adding them to the National Park System; re-designations for several NPS sites as historical parks; and boundary adjustments at several units. This title also designates new national heritage areas, wild and scenic rivers, and national memorials.
  • Sportsmen’s Access – Requires federal agencies to expand and enhance sportsmen’s opportunities on federal lands; makes “open unless closed” the standard for Forest Service and BLM lands; overturns the Army Corps’ rule regulating firearms on its recreational lands; and clarifies procedures for commercial filming on federal lands. Much of this title is drawn from Senator Murkowski’s bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act.
  • Water Infrastructure – Development of water infrastructure is essential to improving water supply certainty and drought preparedness. This title includes provisions that advance important western water projects and improve transparency to facilitate better management of existing Bureau of Reclamation assets.
  • Natural Hazards – Strengthens existing volcano monitoring systems to unify them into a single connected system to help protect citizens and travelers from volcanic activity. This title also establishes the National Landslide Hazards Reduction Program to map, assess, and minimize threats posed by landslides and facilitates elevation mapping efforts throughout the country.
  • Indian Energy – Promotes self-determination through increased access to information, resources, and technical assistance. This title also increases the authority of tribal entities to independently carry out programs and perform functions that are in their best interest.

The bill’s full text can be found on the committee’s website.

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