Most agency staff have been sent home. Press officers are not returning calls or emails. Only those in “excepted positions” – jobs required to protect human life and property – remain at work.
Federal agencies such as the National Weather Service are still monitoring the nation’s water and weather and offering forecasts, but many people are not working. The U.S. Geological Survey, a top science agency, says just 43 of its 8,623 employees (less than 0.50 percent) are excepted and will keep working. Some 200 USGS employees will be on call in case of emergency.
Most research has been halted, and other work is limited. A National Weather Service meteorologist told Climate Central that he can do emergency maintenance on equipment but not routine repairs.
“This will hamstring us in the future, either when the shutdown is lifted and the rush of delayed work hits or when equipment breaks because it is not being maintained properly,” the meteorologist said.
The Environmental Protection Agency is retaining less than 4 percent of its employees. Those still at work include project managers at critical Superfund sites and laboratory staff to prevent existing research projects from collapsing from neglect.
The shutdown plans for nearly every federal agency are available from the Office of Management and Budget.
Supreme Court Lawsuit
Delivering on a promise made in August, Florida’s governor and attorney general filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that its upstream neighbor Georgia is taking too much water from a shared river system. Along with Alabama, the third state in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, the two states were part of a federal water-sharing compact for five years before the compact was terminated. Negotiators failed to complete the chief mission of the compact: agree on water allocations from the river system.
Shale Gas Update
The National Energy Technology Laboratory released an update to its primer on U.S. shale gas development, originally published in 2009.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton