Federal Government Shutdown Impacts California’s Environment, Public Health

Although California often feels like its own planet, we are affected by the federal government shutdown that went into effect today.  Here’s a quick look at how our environment and public health will be affected by the shutdown.

–          The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board will be shut down, preventing it from investigating any industrial spills or accidents occurring during the shutdown, or from continuing ongoing investigations.

–          All National Parks and National Wildlife Refuge Systems will be immediately closed, and the Bureau of Land Management will cease all non-emergency activities.  To learn more about how the shutdown affects wildlife specifically, see our partner the National Wildlife Federation’s statement.

–          Between the suspension of the Department of Justice’s civil litigation and the U.S. Courts’ 10-day budget, many environmental cases will be suspended.

–          The Department of Transportation will be mostly shut down.

–          The Environmental Protection Agency will be mostly unable to continue its work.  In California, this means that funding for projects (including the Environmental Impact Statement for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which is currently aiming for a completion date of November 15th after missing today’s original deadline) may be suspended.  The EPA’s current efforts to limit carbon pollution from power plants will also be halted.

–          The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates large dams in California, will be partially shut down.

The shutdown will continue until Congress can pass a budget.  Some of the program suspensions (such as federal oversight of California’s high speed rail) may not have any actual effect, and others may be able to bounce back quickly from a short lapse in operations; it remains to be seen what the long-term effects of furloughing personnel and suspending certain oversights and enforcement for the duration will be.

Click here for CNN’s more detailed list of federal agencies affected by the shutdown.  Many of our friends in the environmental community are also following the shutdown; see  NRDC’s Scott Slesinger’s blog for regular updates.  

-Compiled by Abigail Okrent and Rebecca Crebbin-Coates