Republican Senator Richard Burr (North Carolina) introduced a bill last week that would "consolidate the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency into a single, new agency called the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE)." Senator Burr and fifteen other Republican co-sponsors argue that "the bill would provide cost savings by combining duplicative functions while improving the administration of energy and environmental policies by ensuring a coordinated approach."
Others suggest that this is merely an attempt to further gut the EPA. Republicans in the House and Senate alike have been trying since gaining the majority in the House last fall to block any efforts of the EPA to engage in the regulation in which current laws mandate they engage. Most notably has been the attempt to halt EPA efforts to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
One vocal critic of the bill is Joseph Romm, who writes the blog Climate Progress. Romm was "Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, in charge of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy during 1997 and as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary from August 1995 through June 1998, and Special Assistant for Policy and Planning from 1993 to July 1995." So while Senator Burr suggests he seeks to reduce duplicative functions, Romm states:
So I can state with a great deal of confidence that DOE and EPA are utterly different agencies that have no meaningful duplicative functions. [emphasis in original]
The list of the bill's co-sponsors is a tip-off to the real purpose of the bill. All have been what Romm calls "global warming deniers" vying for the very conservative voting blocks in their home states.
The fate of the bill is uncertain. Should the bill gain traction in the Senate, which is barely majority Democratic, it would likely be passed as is in the Republican-controlled House, thus leaving it up to President Obama to sign or veto. Given the general trend toward fiscal austerity, it is highly likely that such a merger would result in severe underfunding, and ineffectiveness, for both agencies. Which is apparently the goal given multiple past attempts to restrict each from taking any action on some of the most important long-term issues now facing the US and the world. It's groundhog day all over again.