Energy Policy

How are laws implemented?


The Implementation of Energy Regulations

When a bill is passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, what happens next? If you take a look at many of the energy policy examples from earlier in this course (like the big table from Lesson 3), you'll see that the body of the legislation itself contains a timeline and plan for implementation. It calls out who the key players and administrative units will be and a timeline for how they'll actually go about incorporating this new law into their activities. It is essential to consider that Congress is not the body that actually implements the laws. The implementation and enforcement falls to the pertinent agency (see below for specifics).

The subsequent pages of this lesson are devoted to the different types of energy policy and how they are implemented. I've tried to set each of them in real-world examples. As you work through the lesson, be thinking about how you will structure your discussion of policy implementation in your own Research Project. Implementation and monitoring are critical steps. A well-designed policy is no good to anyone if it is poorly implemented or ineffectively managed.

Who is implementing Energy Regulations?

When we look at energy-related regulations, there are a handful of governmental agencies through which these policies are typically implemented.

  • The Department of Energy is the biggest hub of information relating to all things energy that happen in this country. They regulate the imports and exports of fuels, domestic energy production, are responsible for all things nuclear - from weapons to energy to safety and disposal, and fund research related to energy technologies.
  • The Department of the Interior works closely with the Department of Energy on matters related to onshore and offshore resource extraction.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency handles policies related to climate change, air, and water pollution - all of which are linked to energy production and consumption. Climate policy proposals bought before Congress in recent sessions typically gave substantial (if not all) jurisdiction to EPA for the regulation of an emission trading system. In the absence of that, EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.
  • The Department of Agriculture has a somewhat substantial role to play in climate policy (not as much in energy policy unrelated to climate, though) because of the emission sources and sinks associated with animal production, conservation tillage, and forest carbon sequestration.
  • Even the Army Corps of Engineers plays a role in climate policy, in particular with regards to ensuring resiliency of federally-constructed infrastructure, such as roads and dams. Interestingly, they are also the "largest generator of hydropower and renewable energy in the country," according to USO. (See this and some other interesting facts - some of which are climate related - here.)