Shutdown Ripples

How government organizations are handling the shutdown

While two-party drama occupies the headlines of the government shutdown, various agencies and their employees are weathering its reality.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior are both stalled due to running out of carryover funding on December 28th. They won’t be operational again until the shutdown is resolved. More than 13,000 EPA workers are furloughed as the shutdown threatens to enter its fourth week. The agency’s “most recent” contingency plan (it was drafted and released December 18-30) can be viewed here via its website.

Not surprisingly, some feel the EPA’s dormancy is actually benefitting the environment right now. Meanwhile, the Interior Department faces similar, often perilous setbacks to workers, offset by political opinions that it was a misguided branch under former Secretary Ryan Zincke.

Meanwhile, FERC and the DOE are both fully functional due to a bill passed by President Trump last year that keeps them afloat…and some oil projects have been given priority over things like national park clean-up and hurricane relief to Texas. In a video below, TIME Magazine interviewed various federal workers and contractors on how the government shutdown is affecting their everyday lives:

Utility Dive said on Monday that the Dept. of the Interior being shut down could quickly cause delays an complications for offshore wind projects and some drilling plans. Obviously, the EPA being stalled is a cause for concern because it prevents that branch from both enforcing and legislating its environmental regulations, unless you lean to the side of those who think Trump’s EPA was actually a hindrance on these.

Overall, the shutdown has affected 800,000 federal employees, ranging from unpaid FBI agents to TSA screeners who have been strategically calling in sick, to SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) staffers, a mere 6% of whom are currently working…leaving Initial Public Offerings to take a backseat until the shutdown is lifted, to FDA workers who have been unable to check food as they normally would. Politics as usual, right? Somewhat…but increasingly uncharted territory as the days lengthen; Thursday marked the shutdown’s 19th day. That’s the longest streak since 1995.

And yet, in a stalled world, there is a breath of resolution. Thousands of utilities workers from the nation’s smart grid and natural gas sectors reached an agreement January 2 that put them back to work after a six-month lockout. National Grid and Gas workers ratified a new contract that granted them 401(k) security and improved health insurance benefits.

The company will eliminate pensions for newly-hired workers, but offer increases in pensions and wages to current employees, NECN reported Monday.

John Buonopane, president of USW Local 12012, and Joe Kirylo, president of USW Local 12003, released a joint statement after Monday’s ratification vote:

“Today our members voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new, six-year agreement with National Grid. This contract provides a significant wage increase and a number of other crucial protections for workers,” they said. “Just as important, the agreement safeguards the future workforce and includes a number of provisions that will enhance the safety of our communities — including the creation of dozens of public-safety related jobs.”

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