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Government Shutdown: Energy and Environment Update

USA - sorry we're closedThe government shutdown is into its second week, and more details are emerging about the wide-ranging effects on energy and the environment.

Chemical Safety Board chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said the agency would not be able to respond to a major disaster, since more than 90 percent of its workers are furloughed, the Hill reported. The board has also suspended investigations of several chemical explosions, including the deadly incident at a West, Texas fertilizer plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will run out of funds tomorrow and will put 3,600 of its 3,900 employees out of work, Al-Jazeera America reported.

In a National Association of Clean Air Agencies survey, state and local agencies said the impacts of a week-long EPA shutdown would be minimal, but a longer-term closure would have “troubling” effects, including “delays in monitoring, permitting, SIP development, enforcement, rule development and emissions inventory work; an inability to report and/or retrieve essential data from EPA databases; delays in the issuance of grant funds; cessation in certain permitting work; and furloughs of staff.”

Cleanup has stopped at over 500 Superfund sites, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said – and this work cannot be re-started nearly as quickly as it can be stopped, according to Joel A. Mintz, professor of Law at Nova Southeastern University Law Center and a member scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform, writing for the Hill.

Officials at the EPA said the shutdown would disrupt air and water quality monitoring. John O’Grady, a union rep at the EPA’s Chicago office, told the Guardian, “No one is going to be out inspecting water discharges, or wet lands. Nobody is going to be out inspecting waste water treatment plants, drinking water treatment plants, or landfills – nothing.”

Mintz said nearly all EPA enforcement of asbestos and lead paint removal is now at a standstill. He said agency scientists are no longer inspecting industrial facilities for violations of pollution control standards, and delicate negotiation of pollution abatement and hazardous waste agreements has been suspended, in some cases at critical points.

During the shutdown, the EPA will not update its FuelEconomy.gov website with new vehicle fuel-economy ratings, USA Today reports.

The Energy Star program is also shuttered, with partner applications on hold. The EPA will not update qualified product lists or release any new specifications until funding is restored. The work will not affect the work of third-party testing or certification bodies, LEDs Magazine reports.

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