White House plan would move NOAA to Interior

The federal agency merger plan that President Obama is pushing Friday would shake up environmental and climate research and policymaking.

Under the plan, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would move from the Commerce Department to the Interior Department.

NOAA’s work includes climate change research, as well as multiple activities that intersect with Interior’s regulation of offshore drilling.

For instance, NOAA explores how drilling would affect marine species, and plays a permitting role through its National Marine Fisheries Service. NOAA also played a major role in measuring how much oil spewed from BP’s blown-out Gulf of Mexico well during the 2010 oil spill.

Obama, in last year’s State of the Union address, made the case for better organization.

“The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater,” he said.

“I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked,” Obama quipped.

NOAA’s branches include the National Ocean Service, the National Weather Service and others. The agency accounts for more than half the Commerce Department’s budget, according to the White House.