Committee on Energy and Commerce

Fred Upton

ICYMI: #CommActUpdate progress report via WRAL TechWire


December 16, 2014

12 Days of Broadband, Day 9: Progress Report on Modernizing Communications Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Boy, how times have changed since 1996.

The information and communications technology sector has gone through dramatic changes since 1996. Today's communications industry is a critical part of the economy, accounting for a large part of our economy in terms of GDP.

One year ago this month, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) announced the #CommActUpdate initiative to review and update the nation’s communications laws.

Upton and Walden recently commented on the committee’s progress this year.

“Written in a time when the telegraph was the prevailing technology and last updated when dial-up Internet was considered lightning speed, the Communications Act has not kept pace with the innovation that has been the hallmark of America’s technological leadership. We have made incredible strides, but we can be doing better,” said Upton and Walden on Dec. 4. “Over the past year, the committee has sought and received thoughtful public and stakeholder feedback on a variety of issues to inform our work moving forward. As that work continues, we will begin drafting legislation next year to update the law to better meet the dynamic needs of the 21st century.”

In a year, the committee has asked for and received public input through a series of white papers and held a hearing with former chairmen of the Federal Communications Commission to better understand their perspective on the law.

In January, the Communications and Technology Subcommittee kicked off 2014 with the arduous process to discuss what can be done to improve the laws surrounding the communications marketplace. The first white paper released Jan. 8 focused on broad thematic concepts and talked about ways to foster an environment for innovation, consumer choice and economic growth.

When the Communications Act was last updated to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, most could not have dreamed of the many innovations and advancements that make the Internet what it is today. Walden explained that the committee plans “to look at the Communications Act and all of the changes that have been made piecemeal over the last 89 years and ask one simple question: ‘Is this working for today’s communications marketplace?’”

The reference to “89 years” refers to 1934 when the first Communications Act was adopted creating many regulations still in existence today including the creation of the FCC and its regulatory powers. In 1934 when Congress passed the Communications Act, it was considered a minor piece of legislation bundled with the New Deal. The dominant technology was AM radio. In 1996, the legislation was updated – but at the time it barely had a mention of the Internet since we all were mostly using NetScape as our browser and there were only about 100,000 websites online.

“It’s time for our laws to reflect our modern technological landscape – one grounded in the networks and services of our past and driven by our IP and mobile future,” said Walden.

Chairman Upton noted that the changes in technology since the last update in 1996 have been dramatic and existing laws have failed to keep pace with the vibrant and dynamic telecommunications industry.

Former Chairman Richard Wiley cited his almost five decades in the telecommunications sector in explaining that history shows us innovation happens most when a light regulatory touch is applied. He suggested that the objective of a statutory rewrite should not be to legislate premised on the current state of the marketplace or even on predictions of what it may look like in the future. Instead, he concluded, Congress should consider a flexible and technologically-neutral framework that will be capable of adapting to technical invention and innovation, whatever it may prove to be.

Track the progression of this work on this website, or keep up with the latest news using hashtag #CommActUpdate.

To read the article online, click HERE.


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Holding Government Accountable to the People


Committee Focus on Careful Oversight a Highlight of 2014

Through public hearings, letters to agencies, official committee reports, and more, the Energy and Commerce Committee has remained at the forefront of House Republican efforts to hold the federal government accountable to the people.

Highlights of this important oversight from 2014 include:

The committee also conducted comprehensive reviews of federal mental health programs, prescription drug and heroin abuse, and the Obama administration hindering major construction and job-creating projects. Oversight has been – and will remain – a priority of the Energy and Commerce Committee.



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New Partnership Embraces 21st Century Technology for 21st Century Cures


The first white paper in the bipartisan 21st Century Cures initiative asked, “How can we best leverage advances in translational research, health information technology, and communications so that we can collectively ‘connect the dots’ more quickly and start developing potential therapies and cures?” A new partnership between Autism Speaks and Google, MSSNG, exemplifies the opportunities technology can and will provide in finding more cures and treatments.

The Washington Post reports that this partnership is “an effort to sequence the whole genomes of 10,000 people in families affected by autism, and to share the results with researchers around the world on the Google Cloud Platform. It is sort of like digitizing a DNA library.”

CNBC adds, “Over the past 10 years, no disorder has become so familiar to Americans, yet remained so mysterious, as autism. … If successful, the $50 million project could not only help doctors understand and treat autism but change the way illnesses are tackled in the 21st century.”

To learn more about the 21st Century Cures initiative, click here. Follow along on Facebook and Twitter using #Path2Cures.

December 8, 2014

If you put 10,000 people’s genomes in the cloud, could you demystify autism?

“The world,” the narrator notes in Mark Haddon’s novel “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” “is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” The novel is a mystery. The narrator is a 15-year-old boy named Christopher John Francis Boone. He is autistic, and he is quoting Sherlock Holmes – who was not speaking about autism, in the original Arthur Conan Doyle story, but perhaps could have been.

For all the strides researchers have made in recent years in understanding the disorder we generally think of as autism – actually, it’s a group of disorders, which collectively affect an estimated one out of 68 children in America – so much of it remains mysterious. Scientists are only beginning to untangle which genetic and environmental factors cause the disorders on the autism spectrum.

But there are clues to autism, and lately, many of them have come from studying what amounts to the mapped DNA of people on the spectrum. A major autism non-profit, backed by a tech giant, is betting there are a lot more breakthroughs where those came from.

On Tuesday, the nonprofit, Autism Speaks, will announce the details of an effort to sequence the whole genomes of 10,000 people in families affected by autism, and to share the results with researchers around the world on the Google Cloud Platform. It is sort of like digitizing a DNA library. The effort is called MSSNG; the dropped vowels are meant to show all the things about autism that no one has yet observed, as Holmes might have put it…

The goal is for that access to produce a sort of crowdsourcing for autism answers. David Glazer, the engineering director at Google, compared it to using Google Translate on a Web page, a process that is powered by patterns detected in human translations of words from one language to another…

Read the full article online HERE

November 6, 2014

Can Google find the cure for autism?

Over the past 10 years, no disorder has become so familiar to Americans, yet remained so mysterious, as autism.

Now affecting 1 in every 68 children born in the United States—up from 1 in 166 a decade ago—the condition has so far resisted nearly all efforts to cure it, curb it or even precisely define it. As a result, speculation and controversy surrounding the disease has mounted, leaving parents unsure what to believe and doctors frustrated with a lack of options.

But an unusual partnership between science, business and philanthropy may soon provide some answers. Autism Speaks, Google and geneticist Dr. Stephen Scherer have devised an ambitious plan to upload the complete genomes of 10,000 autistic patients and their families to a cloud database that will be searchable, sortable and shareable with researchers around the world. The plan, known as the Autism Speaks Ten Thousands Genome Program—or AUT10K—aims to harness the combined power of big data, crowdsourcing and genetic know-how to isolate the causes of autism and find new genetic targets for treatment.

If successful, the $50 million project could not only help doctors understand and treat autism but change the way illnesses are tackled in the 21st century….

Read the full article online HERE.


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New Committee Report Outlines Fundamental Flaws of “Clean Power Plan”


WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Committee today released a new majority staff report outlining critical issues that have been raised during the committee’s hearings and oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, known as the “Clean Power Plan.” This comprehensive analysis provides a detailed description of the proposal, the legislative history of section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, information on the legal issues raised by the proposed rule, and offers examples of key testimony received by the committee.

The Energy and Power Subcommittee has been conducting aggressive oversight of EPA’s proposal since its release in June 2014, including hearings with testimony from EPA, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and state energy and environmental regulators. As a result of this oversight, the committee has as established the following five preliminary conclusions as outlined in the report:

  • There are fundamental legal questions about the EPA’s authority to regulate in this area and, assuming such authority, the scope of that authority;
  • EPA’s plan would transform federal and state decision-making concerning the transmission and delivery of electric power in the United States;
  • Many of the key assumptions in the EPA’s proposed “building blocks” are unrealistic;
  • The proposal would not be workable for potentially many states because of a host of implementation challenges; and
  • The accelerated timeline for completing the rulemaking appears inadequate to respond fully to all substantive comments.

“It seems like the deeper we dig into this proposal, the more problems we uncover,” said full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “The administration is trying to push through an unprecedented plan that will fundamentally change the way we generate and consume electricity. And while EPA’s legal authority remains in question, the consequences for consumers and our economy are certain – higher prices, fewer jobs, and reduced reliability. A runaway regulatory train is barreling toward us, and we must do everything we can to stop it.”

“We have conducted extensive oversight of this proposal, and our work is not finished. EPA has not provided the true cost and consequences of its clean power plan, nor have they adequately explained how the agency will address the myriad of legal and feasibility issues,” said Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY). “This Administration’s extreme actions at EPA are being implemented because of President Obama’s view that climate is the most important issue that is facing mankind. While we all agree that climate is changing, we simply cannot agree with his plan which will dramatically increase electricity costs, affect the reliability of the grid system, and will create additional obstacles to economic growth. We will continue to press the administration for answers and hold EPA accountable under the law.”

To read the full report, click HERE.


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Upton, Vitter: GAO Report Confirms NRC’s Unreliable Cost Analyses


WASHINGTON, DC –House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), regarding the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) cost estimating procedures. NRC’s cost estimates for a regulation failed the cost-benefit test in a recent case.  The GAO report found that NRC staff failed to sufficiently follow the best practices to determine a reliable cost estimate for regulations.

Upton said, “Nuclear power is critical to an all-of-the-above strategy needed to meet our energy and environmental goals. To ensure this important clean energy source remains part of our energy mix, we need to be promoting balanced and effective policies that meaningfully enhance safety, and we cannot do that without accurate cost estimates.”

“GAO’s report confirms my suspicion that NRC’s cost estimates are egregiously off target from the actual costs of implementing their regulations,” said Vitter. “Nuclear safety is absolutely a priority, and at the same time, we must ensure that the consumers and businesses who bear the brunt of the regulatory burden are protected from unnecessary costs.”

In May 2013, Upton and Vitter requested a report from the GAO on the methods and procedures currently being utilized by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to conduct cost analyses when developing and proposing new policies and regulations.  Click here to read more.

Click here to read GAO’s report, “Nuclear Regulatory Commission: NRC Needs to Improve Its Cost Estimates by Incorporating More Best Practices.”



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Final Spending Package Includes Bilirakis Bill to Boost Tourism and Job Creation


WASHINGTON, DC - As part of H.R. 83, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, the House Thursday evening again approved the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act of 2014. This jobs bill reauthorizes Brand USA, the public-private partnership created to promote tourism here in the United States. Brand USA assists in financing international advertising for the United States as a world travel destination, and the effort is paid for by international visitors and contributions from the private sector – not by U.S. taxpayers. The bill, authored by committee member Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), originally passed the House in July and includes language that increases transparency and accountability in the program. The program is also fiscally responsible as the Congressional Budget Office estimates that Brand USA would reduce the federal deficit by $231 million over 10 years.

Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) commented, “Tourism is a significant economic driver – supporting millions of jobs and contributing hundreds of billions of dollars to our economy. And Brand USA plays an especially important role in generating interest for international travelers to come visit America. Tourism brings jobs and revenue to nearly every corner of the country – including thousands of jobs and over a billion dollars annually to southwest Michigan alone. I commend Gus Bilirakis for his leadership, and look forward to Brand USA’s continued success for years to come.”

Bilirakis added, “Tourism is an integral part of our economy – especially in Florida. Increased tourism means more American and Floridian jobs. My bill means job growth without utilizing a cent of taxpayer money. In fact, it lowers the deficit. Millions of Americans across the country are still struggling, and Brand USA reauthorization is a jobs bill with a proven track record. I am pleased my initiative will become law. It is a big win for all Americans in the service and tourism industries, and Floridians all across the state, including the Tampa Bay area. Common sense solutions like these to boost the economy and create jobs will spur our slow economic recovery.”

A recent analysis performed by the independent firm Oxford Economics estimated that, in fiscal year 2013, Brand USA generated 1.1 million additional international visitors who spent an estimated $3.4 billion dollars. 

To view a full list of groups supporting this jobs bill click here.

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Power Plan Poses Serious Reliability Risks



Rep. Cramer - “The consequences could be catastrophic if the transition results in blackouts and brownouts during extreme weather conditions or other emergencies when electricity is needed most.”

Higher electricity prices are not the only thing that should have consumers worried over the administration’s Clean Power Plan; as incoming committee member Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) points out in today’s Wall Street Journal, Americans should also be concerned about potential reliability problems. Cramer urges regulators to heed the reliability warnings outlined in a recent report by the North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC). The nation’s grid overseer warns that some areas of the U.S. grid are already at high risk, and EPA’s proposal would make a bad situation worse.

The Energy and Power subcommittee has been conducting extensive oversight of EPA’s power proposal and its impact on electricity prices and reliability. Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) recently sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission along with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the incoming Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, urging the commission to take action and address reliability concerns before it’s too late. The committee will continue its oversight and efforts to say #Yes2Energy and keep electricity affordable and reliable in the 114th Congress. 

December 11, 2014

Where Will You Be When the Lights Go Out?

Pushback against the Obama administration’s complex Clean Power Plan—which would reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 30% in 2030 from 2005 levels—has mostly focused on its staggering cost. NERA Economic Consulting, for instance, estimates the plan will increase the nationwide average price of electricity 12% to 17% over 15 years. But a pair of recent reports present an even more ominous picture. Not only will electricity cost more, Americans might not be able to get it when they most need it.

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), a regulatory authority that monitors the U.S. and Canadian power systems, released a study on Nov. 12 concluding that the long-term reliability of the U.S. grid in some areas is already at risk. Because of rapid shifts to renewable and natural-gas generation, combined with closures of coal-fueled power plants due to existing Environmental Protection Agency regulations, “reserve margins” in the Midwest, New York and Texas have reached dangerously low levels—meaning an increased likelihood of brownouts and blackouts in the coldest weeks of winter and the hottest days of summer.

This analysis of the grid’s long-term reliability left out the potential impact of the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which would force even more coal-fueled power plants to close. A separate NERC report, released one week earlier on Nov. 5, pointed out that the plan’s compliance deadlines for reducing carbon emissions were not realistic when considering how long it takes to build new gas pipelines and electricity transmission lines necessary for new and existing renewable and natural-gas plants to serve customers previously served by coal plants.

More precisely, NERC pointed out that the EPA’s estimates for continuous 1.5% energy efficiency gains each year are unsubstantiated, specifically stating, “this sustainability is not supported by any peer-reviewed or technical studies of energy efficiency potential.” …

Billions of dollars and decades of time have been invested in building an electricity infrastructure that undeniably works. Yet the EPA would replace it with expensive and uncertain measures to accomplish reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions that won’t even move the needle on climate change globally. The consequences could be catastrophic if the transition results in blackouts and brownouts during extreme weather conditions or other emergencies when electricity is needed most. …

Mr. Cramer, a Republican, is a U.S. congressman from North Dakota. As a public-service commissioner in North Dakota from 2003-12, he regulated the electrical utilities industry.

Read the article online HERE.


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Subcommittee Examines Decades-Old EPCA in Era of Energy Abundance


WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), today held a hearing on “The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975: Are We Positioning America for Success in an Era of Energy Abundance?” The hearing examined the current law and its effects on domestic energy supplies, including the impact of crude oil export restrictions. The members heard from a panel of energy experts about America’s changing energy landscape and what it means for the economy and the future of U.S. energy policy.

“This morning’s hearing lays the foundation for our discussion of oil exports with a thorough historical review of current law and its origins. There are a number of questions that need to be answered, but first we need a better understanding of how we arrived where we are today,” said Whitfield.

Adam Sieminski, Administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, explained the history of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) and contrasted the market conditions at the time of the law’s enactment with those of today. “Petroleum market conditions today are very different than they were in the 1970s when the ban on crude oil exports was enacted. Key trends in U.S. oil markets have reversed. Then demand was rising rapidly and production was falling. Now, production is rising rapidly and demand is falling. U.S. crude production may soon hit an all-time high, surpassing the previous record set in the 1970s,” said Sieminksi.

Dr. Charles Ebinger, Senior Fellow of the Energy Security Initiative at the Brookings Institution, also noted the dramatic changes in the energy market and urged lawmakers not to repeat policy mistakes of the past. He said, “The US could not have been more ill-prepared for the 1973 Oil Embargo. In response, one of the primary actions taken was the creation of the Federal Energy Administration which was immediately charged with administering oil prices and allocation controls. Unfortunately these were so ill conceived that they only accentuated the impact of the crisis and exacerbated gasoline shortages, causing long lines of angry motorists buying highly regulated volumes of fuels often on odd and even days of the month.” Ebinger also noted that while some policies of EPCA have been modified or reversed, some parts of the law remain intact, including the ban on crude exports.

Lucian Pugliaresi, President of the Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc. (EPRINC), added “As we look back on U.S. energy legislation policies since the 1970’s, we cannot help but be stunned by the systematic failure to predict the future and the unintended consequences of U.S. energy policy. Often these policies, in an attempt to either promote the development of alternatives to petroleum or to insulate consumers form price volatility, prevented more productive responses from both consumers and producers. … Given the vast changes in our energy landscape we should now revisit the entire range of regulatory programs that were put into place in a much different era. Petroleum is no longer an instrument of economic distress, but a major driver of economic growth and a much-improved strategic outlook for the U.S.”

Members questioned today’s witnesses about the market implications of EPCA and the potential consequences of changing the law, particularly the effect on consumers and gasoline prices. Witnesses pointed to recent studies suggesting that lifting the ban on crude exports would not increase domestic gasoline prices, but acknowledged the issue is complex. EIA’s Sieminski committed to further analysis, stating, “EIA is undertaking further analyses that will examine other issues relevant to discussions surrounding oil exports and expects to report additional results over the coming months.”

Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) added, “Increased domestic energy production is great news, but it does present a host of new challenges. Most significantly, we need to construct an Architecture of Abundance to make full use of this energy bounty and maximize the benefits we can get from it. That means we must take steps to upgrade and modernize the energy infrastructure system, including the Keystone XL Pipeline as well as many other job creating projects to transport America’s energy to the businesses and consumers who need it. We will continue to reconsider existing energy laws and advance new ones in order to fulfill our energy potential.”


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House Chairmen Upton, Sessions Statement on ICD-10


WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) issued the following statement on the implementation of ICD-10, the most recent coding system to be used by health care providers for reimbursement and other functions. The Energy and Commerce Committee has been working with CMS to ensure the October 1, 2015, implementation is achieved and is prepared to have a hearing on the issue in the New Year.

“As we look ahead to the implementation date of ICD-10 on October 1, 2015, we will continue our close communication with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to ensure that the deadline can successfully be met by stakeholders,” said Upton and Sessions. “This is an important milestone in the future of health care technologies, and it is essential that we understand the state of preparedness at CMS. Following the most recent delay of ICD-10, we heard from a number of interested parties concerned about falling behind or halting progress. We would like to acknowledge and thank these organizations and individuals for opening up this dialogue and expressing their thoughts and concerns regarding this issue. It is our priority to ensure that we continue to move forward in health care technology and do so in a way that addresses the concerns of all those affected and ensure that the system works.”


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Upton and Walden Release #CommActUpdate White Paper on Video Policy


WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) today continued the process of gathering public input ahead of the #CommActUpdate. The white paper released today explores the laws governing the market for video content distribution.

“As we often noted during our work to reauthorize the satellite television law, the marketplace for video content and distribution has changed dramatically in recent years and continues to evolve. We are long removed from the days of one TV per household, bulky box sets that often doubled as living room furniture. Now, Americans are clamoring for more content and choices, and the ability to view videos whether home or on the go on the platform of their choosing,” said Upton and Walden. “This white paper asks important questions that will inform the #CommActUpdate process about these ever-changing dynamics. We look forward to the spirited responses which have followed each prior white paper and expect to begin putting pen-to-paper in the coming months.”

Although this white paper is focused on specific video regulation, the committee encourages comment on any aspect of updating the Communications Act. Responses are requested by January 23, 2015, to

To read the white paper, click here.

To read previously released white papers or to learn more about the #CommActUpdate effort, click here


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