111th Congress Halftime Highlights

(Dec 21, 2009) - As the first session of the 111th draws (slowly) to a close, many reporters have started to assemble the time-honored “year in review” stories.  Because our job is to help you do your job, we want to highlight the accomplishments which made 2009 such a busy and successful year for the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources.

For those who need numbers: in 2009 the Committee held 56 hearings on matters relating to energy policy, public lands, climate change, green tech, water policy, nuclear waste, wildfires and nominations, among other topics.  The Committee held 19 mark-ups …ordered reported 36 bills and resolutions and 27 nominations … and organized 75 bipartisan staff briefings.

By any measure, that’s a very respectable record and impressive work rate.  Expect more of the same in 2010.

Under the leadership of Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), these achievements stand out:

Enacted the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (S. 22), a bipartisan package of 160+ bills that help protect important parts of our nation’s natural, cultural and historical legacy.  This legislation represents years of work by Senators from many states, and both parties, in cooperation with local communities, to enhance places which make so special.  The 1,294-page bill, which President Obama signed in April, is one of the most sweeping conservation laws that Congress has passed in many, many years.

Reported a comprehensive, balanced and bipartisan energy bill -- the American Clean Energy Leadership Act (S. 1462).  ACELA will be the foundation for advancing key energy legislation through the full Senate next year.  Provisions were developed through 39 bipartisan staff briefings, 19 formal hearings and 11 open business meetings.  During the process of writing this 531-page bill, from January through early May, the Committee considered 219 amendments and adopted 100 of those, most on a bipartisan basis and many unanimously.

Played an important role in helping the Administration put together the energy provisions in the economic recovery package.  The Committee held a conference on “green stimulus” ideas in December 2008, as consideration of such a package began in earnest, to promote a vigorous, informed discussion of how to help (near-term) the economy and (long-term) build strength and capacity into a national energy and natural resource systems.  The Committee compiled and published on its website a compilation of these green stimulus ideas.  During the early weeks of 2009, the Committee played a key role in shaping the energy provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), particularly in the areas of weatherization, energy efficiency community block grants, and financing support for clean energy deployment.  As Chairman Bingaman observed of the ARRA:  “We tried to hit the sweet spot of helping our economy recover while promoting clean energy.  This bill did both.”

Just two days ago, with a unanimous voice vote, the Committee reported 32 additional bills, consisting mostly of new protections for wilderness, national parks, historic sites, forests, rivers and trails, public lands and water resources.  These bills will be eligible for consideration by the full Senate in early 2010.

Continued to help chart a bipartisan course on climate policy, by organizing seven climate-themed hearings on topics that are relevant to the effect of any greenhouse gas regulatory system on energy consumers, energy-intensive industries and energy producers.  More climate-related hearings are planned in 2010 as the Committee continues its work of identifying the key issues that need to be addressed in order to marshal the broad bipartisan support needed in the Senate to pass climate-related legislation.

Developed the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act and saw its substantial inclusion in the Fiscal Year 2010 Interior Appropriations Act.  The bipartisan FLAME Act provisions establish a separate budget for fighting the biggest and most complex wildland fires, so that adequate funding is available and so that Federal agencies’ land management functions are not shorted.  This legislation became law in October.

Advanced the cause of reinvigorating ’s manufacturing leadership through development of the Restoring America’s Manufacturing Leadership through Energy Efficiency Act of 2009 (S. 661).  The bill was aimed at helping America’s manufacturing base create more jobs, use less energy, reduce carbon pollution and drive the technologies needed to power the green economy of the future, and was incorporated into the Committee’s comprehensive energy legislation.  These efforts dovetailed with related efforts on manufacturing tax credits by Sen. Bingaman in the Committee on Finance, in cooperation with Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Finance Chairman Max Baucus.

Began work on reforming the nation’s antiquated mining laws by beginning consideration of the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009 (S. 796) – a reform proposal that Sen. Bingaman introduced in the spring.


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