: 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.
* * *
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.
Basically, it all comes down to what's deemed essential and what isn’t. The Department of Energy is in the same category as the Pentagon — it will remain open
whether or not Republicans and Democrats can strike a deal before midnight on Friday. But other areas of government are more difficult to figure out. This is especially true at the Department of the Interior. Officials there sent out a cheat sheet this week for what will (and won’t) be open.
Here’s the skinny on Interior:
Closed: National parks and public lands law enforcement
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.
Open: Volcano and earthquake monitoring
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.
Closed: Enforcement of energy regulations
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
Open: Offshore drilling regulation
A total 52,500 employees at the Department of Interior could be furloughed immediately, but not the one in this segment. Almost all offshore drilling permitting, inspection and enforcement operations would continue. This will be done, according to the Interior Department, by using “non-appropriated and non-lapsing” funding sources.
Open: Most of Interior’s law enforcement agencies
A few other parts of the Interior Department would remain on call throughout a shutdown. The U.S. Park Police, a group that monitors some of the nation's most valuable places, including the National Mall, would remain on duty. Federal firefighters and most wildlife caretakers would remain at work if a deal isn’t reached on Capitol Hill.
Closed: Most of the U.S. Geological Survey
Geological data collection and analysis operations would stop. Additionally, citizen access to the normally extensive information that is made available the U.S. Geological Survey will be “limited,” according to the Interior Department.
If you are someone who plans to go camping or sightseeing or you are an American Indian who is eligible for federal assistance, you would be wise to take a look at the Department of Interior’s complete memo, which can be found here.
Also on MNN: