Oil and gas leases, national parks to be hit by govt shutdown

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Agencies charged with crafting energy and environmental regulations will be forced to lay off thousands of employees and halt key functions, including issuing oil and gas drilling permits and maintaining national parks, under the government shutdown.

For the first time in seventeen years, some federal agencies will have to close their doors if Republicans and Democrats can’t cobble a deal together that continues to fund the government. In particular, energy and environmental regulators will be affected by a failure to cut a deal.

The Interior Department will furlough 58,765 employees — about 81 percent of its staff. Those who aren’t slated to be furloughed are mainly law enforcement officers and those who oversee national parks. Furthermore, the department’s permitting of oil and gas leases on federal lands would be halted. However, offshore drilling permits would continue.

Furthermore, many national attractions will be closed. CNN reports that 368 National Park Service sites will be closed in the event of a shutdown.

The Environmental Protection Agency would only retain 1,069 of its 16,205 employees at work during the shutdown, including law enforcement officials and employees whose funding comes from sources outside government appropriations.

The Energy Department, on the other hand, would be able to continue much of its work, reports Politico, as the agency gets a lot of funding from multi-year appropriations. An agency spokeswoman said that “in the immediate future, we expect federal employees to continue to report for work as scheduled” as the DOE has enough funds to operate “for a short time.”

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has enough money to keep running for about a week, but will have to furlough all but 300 of its 3,900 employees if the shutdown goes beyond one week. Most of those who would stay on are nuclear reactor inspectors and staff that respond to accidents.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would only retain 48 employees and 19 contractors — 4.6 percent of its staff.

Republicans and Democrats are trying to reach an agreement to fund the government as the new fiscal year approaches. However, Democrats are rejecting all Republican funding bills because they refuse to accept any changes  to Obamacare except changes that are unilaterally imposed by the president.

Last week, House Republicans passed a spending bill that would defund Obamacare, which was stripped by Senate Democrats. The House passed another measure that would delay the implementation of Obamacare for one year and repeal the medical devices tax. That too was rejected by Senate Democrats. The House is now putting together a final effort, which the Senate is expected to reject.

Senate rejectionists say the problem is with House Republicans. “It is extortion,” New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”. “It’s holding the good of the country — the economy, middle class people — at risk.”

Republicans countered that Democrats are already delaying the effects of the law for their allies.

“This President has already delayed big pieces of the Affordable Care Act for his friends, for big business, his cronies,” said Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo. “All we’re asking is to delay other pieces, like the individual mandate that will affect low income people in Kansas. Delay it for a year.”

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