Government Shutdown Affecting Energy and Environment Programs

Charles EadieWith how polarized congress is, nobody knows how long the government shutdown will last. Even if it’s resolved soon, we can expect more government shutdowns in the future as the country continues to divide more strongly along party lines. Among the sufferers of these shutdowns will be the many energy and environmental regulatory agencies and employees.

With the current shutdown, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that it would be closing up with only 300 of its 3,900 employees continuing to work. Those remaining include 150 inspectors who are working near nuclear power reactors. The rest are at Rockville, Maryland, the agency’s headquarters. Among the furloughed workers are those who license new reactors and those who supervise companies and laboratories that handle radioactive material. 90 percent of the commission budget come from fees, but even with the little they’re making now, it can’t spend the money without congressional action.

Meanwhile, the Interior Department has also stopped working. They stopped processing drilling permits onshore and offshore, as well as permits for gas exploration. They also stopped onshore and offshore leasing for wind projects. Inspection and enforcement of onshore and offshore oil and gas drilling could be “compromised” so that the economy can keep running when the government isn’t.

With the most of the workers of the Environmental Protection Agency sent home, the National Association of Clean Air Agencies cannot issue guidelines to state agencies, investigate violations or offer consultations. This will make it difficult for local agencies to carry out some of their day to day activities. The EPA is also responsible for testing new car emissions before those cars go on sale. But currently, that is not happening.

It’s necessary for these agencies to be a little more intrusive with business activities. The environment isn’t going to save itself.