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Bill Merges Agencies to Create Environment & Energy Dept.
Nebraska Ag Connection - 04/09/2019

Governor Pete Ricketts signed two bills to streamline and improve the operations of state agencies.

LB302 introduced by Senator Dan Hughes of Venango merges the Department of Environmental Quality and the Nebraska Energy Office into a single agency as of July 1, 2019. The new agency, named as the Department of Environment and Energy, will be under the direction of Jim Macy. Macy presently serves as the Director of Environmental Quality and interim director of the Nebraska Energy Office.

"As with the mergers that created our Transportation and Veterans agencies in 2017, this merger will make our state government work more effectively and more efficiently," said Governor Ricketts. "The new Department of Environment and Energy that will allow the state to form a more unified vision and strategic plan for our work in these related areas."

"The two agencies currently have a number of related functions and similar services which will be enhanced for Nebraskans by combining efforts," said Director Macy. "Thank you to the Legislature for supporting our work."

David Bracht, who oversaw the Nebraska Energy Office from 2015 to 2018, also spoke of the benefits of the bill: "The combination of the agencies is going to allow for more resources to achieve the Energy Office's mission by generating a number of efficiencies and synergies."

The Governor also signed LB 301 to assign sole responsibility of the Boiler Inspection Act, the Nebraska Amusement Ride Act, and the Conveyance Safety Act to the Fire Marshal. The bill's sponsor, Senator John Lowe of Kearney, spoke of the wisdom of housing the inspections under one roof.

"Right now, the Department of Labor and the Fire Marshal have overlapping responsibilities and inspections within these three acts," said Senator Lowe. "This overlap can lead to the need for two different inspections, from two different state agencies, on the same item in a building. This can lead to confusion if one agency approves a boiler or an elevator, but the next agency comes out on a different day and says that changes are needed on that same boiler or elevator."

LB 302 received a vote of 45-0-4 on final passage. LB 301 was given final approval with a vote of 44-0-5.

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