Can an agency designed to deal with energy issues deal effectively with environmental concerns?

Nebraska is about to find out.

As a result of the passage of LB302, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the Nebraska Energy Office will become the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy on July 1.

“This merger will make state government services more efficient, effective and customer-focused,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said.

“The two agencies have a number of related functions and similar goals, and their services to Nebraskans will be enhanced by combining their efforts. The newly consolidated agency will be able to take a longer-term, more strategic approach to helping grow Nebraska as we work to be a good steward of our natural resources and promote energy efficiency.”

Jim Macy, who has run the DEQ for four years and has been acting head of the energy office for several months, echoed the governor’s thoughts.

“The two agencies have many common purposes, and we expect to see many positive benefits by combining and unifying our efforts,” Macy said. “Merging the two agencies will create greater depth in staffing and minimize duplication of jobs. It also improves the delivery of environmental and energy programs and policies statewide.”

The merger was celebrated at a construction site in the Fallbrook area of Lincoln, which will house all of the new DEE agency’s employees in about a year, with room for expansion. The central location is also expected to create cost savings over the current multiple offices.

The move takes the idea of merging and consolidation of governmental functions one step farther than the recent combination of the Nebraska Department of Roads and the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics.

While that merger was natural — both agencies served to advance transportation — does the same shared purpose exist between one agency designed to advance energy and another designed to preserve and enhance the natural environment?

Will one purpose come to dominate the other? Only time will tell.

It falls to this and future administrations, Legislatures and the citizens themselves to make sure a proper balance is achieved and the public interest served.

McCook Gazette