Senate Bill Would Combine DOE and EPA

May 11, 2011

I keep hearing buzz about how much money the federal government could save if it eliminated and consolidated duplicative programs. In response to this, a senator from North Carolina recently sponsored a bill that would combine the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

I don’t know if this bill (S.892) from Senator Richard Burr, R-N.C., will have any legs, but it’s certainly an intriguing idea. Honestly, I’ve never been able to figure out what the difference is between the DOE and the EPA.

If you visit their websites and find their mission statements, you’ll see that the DOE is focused on “addressing [America’s] energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.” The EPA, meanwhile, states that its basic mission is to “protect human health and the environment.”

There’s a lot of overlap between energy and environment, as everyone in HVAC is well aware. (If I really wanted to get into it, I might ask why the EPA also has to protect health when we’ve got another whole Department of Health and Human Services … but that’s a topic for another day and another forum.)

Frankly, I’ve never been able to see any rhyme or reason behind why the DOE handles certain programs while the EPA handles others - or why some programs are jointly administered by the two agencies.

Sen. Burr’s bill proposed to consolidate the DOE and EPA into a single agency called the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE). According a press release on Sen. Burr’s website, the goal behind establishing a DOEE is to “provide cost savings by combining duplicative functions while improving the administration of energy and environmental policies by ensuring a coordinated approach.”

Sen. Burr also claims that this bill “could result in $3 billion in savings over the next year alone.” So far he’s got 15 cosponsors (all Republicans) signed on to the bill, which was introduced on May 5.

Do you agree that this could be a good idea?