Energy Health and Safety Issues Need a Coordinated Approach

EMD-80-52: Published: Jul 24, 1980. Publicly Released: Jul 24, 1980.

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Several energy-related accidents have heightened public concern about the effectiveness of the Government's role in energy health and safety. Numerous agencies are involved in regulating energy health and safety and, for the most part, they regulate independently of each other. The Federal Government has not developed a coordinated approach to examine broad conceptual issues such as the energy health and safety, economic, and environmental trade-offs of the various energy decisions. The potential for duplication of effort, lack of coordination, and gaps in regulatory coverage increases. Some interagency groups and individual agency efforts are working to alleviate some of the problems, but no mechanism has been formulated to coordinate the overall energy health and safety issues and programs. Broad policy issues which should be addressed involve the definition and focus of energy health and safety, the relationship among energy health and safety regulations, economic energy regulations and environmental concerns, and the identification of activities and policies in place at the various levels of government and the intergovermental relationships. Further study of the issues is warranted. A centralized focus on all energy health and safety regulatory activities would be the best way to evaluate these issues. It would increase coordination, communication, and cooperation among agencies, identify and correct gaps in energy health and safety regulatory coverage, institutionalize energy health and safety, and provide a means by which to evaluate and analyze energy use trade-offs. Four options which could have all or most of the advantages discussed above are: establishing a new agency, creating an interagency forum, instituting a lead agency concept, or establishing an independent commission.

A GAO analysis of the options indicates that at this time an independent commission would be the best means to provide a centralized focus on energy health and safety issues. An independent commission would be relatively inexpensive and easy to establish, reorganize, and abolish. In addition, the disadvantages of establishing an independent commission appear to be less severe than those of the other three options.

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