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Proponents of ending daylight saving time have a hurdle in their path: the agency charged with overseeing time in the US isn’t equipped for the role, according to a watchdog.
The Transportation Department — usually known for overseeing planes, trains, and automobiles — is also responsible for fostering the uniform observance of time and approving state requests to change their time zone. The agency doesn’t have procedures in place to review such requests or to check areas that fail to observe daylight saving time or their time zone, the agency’s inspector general reported Thursday.
The watchdog wants the agency to study whether observance of time zones and daylight saving time is a “problem Nationwide” and update a public map showing time zones. The watchdog noted a DOT official was unaware of recent media reports about several localities not following their assigned time zones.
The merits of daylight saving time, a twice-a-year clock change to adjust to sunlight, have long been debated, with support building from more Americans to eliminate it. People disagree over what time to make permanent and the benefits and drawbacks of darker mornings.
As more state and local governments, as well as the US Congress, consider whether to change times, the inspector general reviewed DOT’s role in the issue. The findings could present another complication to those efforts.
In the last seven years at least 45 states have proposed legislation to change how they keep time. The US Senate in March passed legislation (S. 623) by unanimous consent that would make daylight saving time permanent across the US. The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on the issue earlier this year, but the chamber hasn’t brought the legislation to the floor.
While Congress debates whether to alter time across the country, Democrats have called on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to approve state petitions to change their times. The department hasn’t received a petition in almost 13 years, according to a letter from John Putnam, DOT’s general counsel, in response to the inspector general.
The Transportation Department has “one of the Federal Government’s largest regulatory portfolios,” Putnam said. The agency is working on the watchdog’s recommendations, including an official time zone map, he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at email@example.com