Editor's note: Budget negotiators reached a compromise around 11 p.m. Friday night, averting a shutdown. Their work solves the immediate budget crisis, but not the underlying disagreement. Negotiations for the 2012 budget begin next week.
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As politicians hash out a deal to prevent a government shutdown, it's interesting to note which agencies would remain open and which would close if the shutdown becomes a reality.
April is when many U.S. National Parks begin to open roads and areas that are shut down for the winter. As a result, this is also a time when visitors flock to the parks to see spring’s new baby animals, budding flowers and trees and water flowing from the early stages of snowmelt. But none of that will be visible to visitors during a government shutdown because the National Park Service will be almost completely shuttered. The Hoover Dam is one exception. The snow will still melt, the young animals will start playing and the flowers will still bloom — but all this will happen behind the closed gates of some of our most beautiful public places. The same is true for national wildlife refuges.
Anything that is related to the monitoring of natural disasters is immune to a government shutdown because these tasks fall under the “emergency” or “excepted” classification. So if you live in a seismically or geologically active area, the government will continue to keep tabs on what’s going on underground.
Nearly a year after a coal mining tragedy in West Virginia took the lives of 29 miners, a government shutdown would halt federal oversight and regulation of surface coal mining operations. There's a difference in safety oversight between surface and strip mining and deep underground mining, but the shutdown of this regulation feels like horrible timing. Onshore oil and gas drilling is another area that won't be covered. According to the Interior Department, almost all permitting, inspection and enforcement work would come to a screeching halt if our leaders in Washington fail to make a deal. The renewable energy sector is also likely to take a hit as a shutdown would result in the suspension of right-of-way issuances — meaning transmission lines, wind turbine siting permits, and placement of solar panels would have to wait. (This is not part of Interior, but worth noting: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would stop monitoring pollution and issuing environmental impact permits. Toxic waste site cleanup also would stop, according to CNN.)