The conflict between President Obama, the budget and the divided Congress may delay several climate, conservation and regulation programs, since important environmental agencies are closing until further notice.
What is a Shutdown?
When Congress does not approve the budget, all non-essential services that depend on the federal state are suspended and the government is obliged to send home unpaid officials until a resolution is made. So, starting October 1st, the new fiscal year, all museums, national parks and most U.S. agencies are closed, sending their employees home while others work with only the essential number of people. The last time this situation took place was 17 years ago during the government of President Clinton.
Which are the agencies directly related to the environment that are affected by the shutdown?
The Environmental Protection Agency. In EPA Chief Gina McCarthy’s words, the agency has “essentially shut down.” About 96% of the agency’s staff was sent home, meaning that, for example, the new carbon emission regulations for power plants proposed two weeks ago could be delayed and environmental violations will be prosecuted more slowly.
National Weather Service. Although the NWS will continue to provide weather forecasts, watches, and warnings, much of the agency’s research activities have stopped or been slowed.
The Department of Energy. Most employees conducting energy research projects were sent home. The offices that are still at work are the Nuclear Materials and Power Grids, the office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and part of the Environmental Cleanup.
National Parks. Ironically, October 1st marked the 123rd anniversary of the Yosemite National Park. It was also the day Yosemite and all other national parks, monuments and government-funded museums —closed to the public.
The good news, however, is that not all of the important government agencies and organizations are shutting down, at least for now. Some of the agencies that remain open include the Colorado Flood Relief, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding, the Energy Information Administration, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and the National Marine Fisheries Service Agency.