The government shutdown closes National Parks, but not to the oil and gas industries.

The government shutdown closes National Parks, but not to the oil and gas industries.

Exceptions to the rules often seem to go to those at the top of the money heap, and so the government shutdown closes national parks for most everyone, except the oil and gas industry. They get to keep on drilling. And among the federal agencies hardest hit, in terms of employees told to stay home, is the EPA. It’s all about priorities. Who gets to decide those “priorities” seems to be a very important question, but I’m doubtful we’ll get any important answers.

About the EPA, from Reuters:

EPA to be hit hard in shutdown, could delay renewable fuel standard

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will take one of the biggest hits of any federal agency if the government shuts down this week, operating with under 7 percent of its employees, according to guidance issued by the agency. …

The EPA said its plan for dealing with a shutdown would classify 1,069 employees, out of 16,205, as essential.

At Think Progress, EPA Chief Gina McCarthy is quoted as saying that the agency has “essentially shut down.”

EcoWatch reports:

National parks are closed to everyone but oil and gas drillers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will furlough 94 percent of its employees … .

“˜House Republicans have refused to pass routine legislation to fulfill the most basic aspect of their job””keeping the government open and working for American families,’ said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

“˜The government shutdown we now face means no cops on the beat against toxic pollution. It means that we’ll have to dress like oil executives if we want to visit our national parks and monuments.’

EcoWatch, of course, is writing from an environmental concerns perspective. Here’s another quite different look, from David Blackmon, who identifies himself as someone whose “career in the oil and natural gas industry began in 1979.” From his piece at Forbes:

Oil And Gas Industry Won’t Feel Much Pain From Government “˜Shutdown’

So the federal government is “˜shut down’ … and several folks have inquired about what, if any, impact this will have on the continuity of the U.S. oil and natural gas industry. The short answer is, not much.

A longer answer came via email yesterday from my friends at an industry trade association in Washington, in the form of the following report on impacts to various federal agencies that have regulatory authority over the industry in some form or fashion.

You can take a look at this portion of Blackmon’s article at the link, which covers everything from the impact on the National Weather Service to the Department of Interior to the Bureau of Land Management to the Department of Energy. EcoWatch and others see the shutdown, and in particular the fact that the oil and gas industries keep drilling on federal land, as a concern. Blackmon sees it as a

… further slowing of the already glacial pace of issuing onshore drilling permits from the Bureau of Land Management …, offshore permits by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement … and various permits issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. …

You’ll note that I keep putting the word “˜shutdown’ in quotes. This is because I’m having a real hard time seeing this as being any sort of actual “˜shutdown’ at all, given that, if you add up the numbers in the trade association memo, you come up with more than 20,000 employees still actively on their jobs at the agencies discussed.

“More than 20,000″ left in the several agencies he mentions, which obviously employ many thousands more, seems a rather cavalier attitude. His conclusion:

… (T)he industry will by and large barely notice that the federal government is temporarily shut down, and the shale revolution will continue apace.

Sorry, Peak Oilers and anti-Frackers, that’s just the way it is.

In the Think Progress article, Katie Valentine provides an overview of agencies related to energy and climate, and how the shutdown affects them, including the following.

The Department of Energy … is losing 69 percent of its staff. … (T)hose employees who oversee nuclear materials and power grids, as well as one employee from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and a few employees responsible for environmental cleanup are still at work. …

The good news … is that a few government agencies and organizations have managed to skirt the shutdown. Here are a few of the major energy and climate-related exceptions:

The National Weather Service. You’ll still be able to recieve (sic) weather forecasts and warnings, because the NWS is considered an essential service. … (T)he National Hurricane Center, too, will continue to track storms.

Colorado flood relief. FEMA has assured Coloradans that aid to the state devastated by recent flooding will continue.

See the article for more details.

Earlier, I included a quote from Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “(The shutdown) … means that we’ll have to dress like oil executives if we want to visit our national parks and monuments.” Or maybe like the employees who do the actual drilling.

And then there’s this approach, although it isn’t related to fossil fuels, to consider. CNN describes a group of veterans who today broke through a barricade to the World War II Memorial, with the reported help of “a few Republican members of Congress,” and the non-action of security guards.

(Shutdown National Park Graphic Via UpADownA)