House lawmakers set to kick off DOE reorganization push

Source: Sam Mintz, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, January 8, 2018

House lawmakers will begin their formal legislative efforts to “flip the script” at the Department of Energy this week with a hearing featuring top agency officials and outside experts.

Reauthorization of DOE has long been a stated priority for the Energy and Commerce Committee this Congress, and despite the sexting scandal and impending retirement of Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who has been tasked with leading that work, the panel is moving forward.

“The nation’s energy landscape has changed dramatically since the Department of Energy was created in the 1970s amid energy scarcity and global market turmoil,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the Energy Subcommittee, in a statement.

“It’s time we flip-the-script on the department and ensure its mission can meet 21st Century challenges — from its continuing nuclear security responsibilities to the geopolitical benefits of energy abundance to the emerging threats of the cyber age.”

DOE has already done some reshuffling of its own, announcing in December that it would split its main science and energy divisions (Greenwire, Dec. 15, 2017).

But members of Congress are eager to bring their own ideas to the table and have said they want to introduce legislation to enact a broad agency revamp.

Priorities for attention during the process, according to several lawmakers, include examining DOE’s 17 national research laboratories and how they coexist with the agency.

Members also want to consider what role DOE should play in dealing with threats to the electric grid and whether some functions of U.S. EPA would better fit inside DOE or if the two agencies should be combined.

Barton, who is staying involved with the process, has said he is trying to work closely with Democrats to ensure the effort succeeds.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry will not be testifying at the hearing, but several of his top lieutenants will, including Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette.

Also in attendance will be Thomas Zacharia, director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and outside policy experts from think tanks and academia.

Its unclear how much Senate lawmakers are on board with reauthorizing DOE. Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) have pressed harder for passage of their energy reform bill.

Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, Jan. 9, at 10 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn.

Witnesses: Dan Brouillette, deputy secretary, Department of Energy; Paul Dabbar, undersecretary for science, Department of Energy; Mark Menezes, undersecretary for energy, Department of Energy; Frank Klotz, undersecretary for nuclear security, Department of Energy; Sarah Ladislaw, director of the Energy and National Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Donald Levy, professor emeritus, University of Chicago; Rich Powell, executive director, ClearPath Foundation; Dan Reicher, executive director, Stanford University Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance; Steve Wasserman, director of Lilly Research Laboratories Collaborative Access Team, Argonne National Laboratory; and Thomas Zacharia, director, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.