U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., has proposed sweeping changes for the Department of Energy, including moving the Environmental Protection Agency under its umbrella. 

Those changes are now in the hands of Joe Barton, R-Texas. Barton, vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is working to introduce a Department of Energy reauthorization bill this fall.

The proposal is the same one Cramer presented last year to then president-elect Donald Trump. 

“Our committee is well positioned to take a look at DOE’s mission and structure, and I look forward to contributing to the effort,” Cramer said. “With his background and his relationship with Secretary (Rick) Perry, Joe is the perfect person to lead this charge. Among the menu of ideas, there are bound to be some gems as we deal with the reality of budget constraints and opportunities to lead the new energy economy.”

Moving the Environmental Protection Agency into the Department of Energy would save billions in improved government efficiency, Cramer suggested, as well as bring much-needed expertise to the Department of Energy, which is responsible for cleaning up former sites related to nuclear weapons.

It would facilitate shifting more responsibility onto individual states for environmental regulation, and make it more difficult for EPA to issue regulations on energy and pollution-control technologies that are not yet commercialized. He believes it would also insulate EPA from environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club, making its decision making more “rational.”

Cramer would also reorganize applied research into new categories, which the representative believes would help the agency become more “energy agnostic.” The present categories are centered around particular fuels, which the lawmaker believes has led to government choosing winners and losers on the open energy market.

Cramer’s proposed categories are power and grid, transportation and fuels, and energy efficiency technologies.

“We want to take some of the politics out of it by having outcome-based research, rather than the agency picking winners,” Cramer said. “If we had three categories that are more outcome than fuel specific-based, you could do a lot more with less money, and I think we’d have a much more efficient program.”

Cramer said too many special interests are getting funding for projects they’d do anyway. He would like to refocus these dollars on breakthrough projects that would be deemed too risky for the private sector. To accomplish that, he would give the national laboratories more flexibility.

The agency’s research should also support the goal of making energy exports a tool in U.S. foreign policy, Cramer wrote, and to that end the agency should work to lift any export restrictions under its control and help lead U.S. efforts to develop an international framework that guarantees access to affordable, reliable energy to nations abroad. 

That would promote prosperity and safety for everyone, Cramer wrote, and help reduce the influence of monopolies like OPEC, which are hostile to U.S. interests and already use energy as a weapon against America and her allies.

Lastly, the proposal lays out a framework for modernizing the nation’s nuclear arsenal, steps that were being undertaken in the Obama administration as well. But Cramer lays out a game-plan for speeding that process up substantially.

A faster timetable will save at least $1.1 billion in funds needed to extend the life of the existing stockpile of enriched uranium, Cramer said. Under his proposal, build-out of a domestic enrichment plant would happen in four years, and the entire project would be complete in eight.

“Such a commitment would re-establish America as the world leader in uranium enrichment technology; fully support U.S. nonproliferation initiatives; save multiple billions in appropriated funding over the life of the program; lessen dependence on foreign enrichers; and, create thousands of high-paying, high-quality construction, manufacturing, and nuclear operating jobs in the near and intermediate term,” Cramer wrote.

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