ENVIRONMENT

EPA Set To Run Out Of Money As Government Shutdown Drags On

The Environmental Protection Agency had run on spare funding after the shutdown began. Now there are plans to furlough workers and prioritize high-risk projects.

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to run out of money one week after President Donald Trump refused to sign a spending bill because it lacked $5 billion in funding for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, prompting a partial government shutdown.  

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told federal employees in a Thursday email that the agency would begin shutdown procedures, including steps for furloughed employees, if negotiations over the spending bill remained at a standstill by the end of Friday.

“In the event an appropriation is not passed by midnight Friday, December 28th, EPA will initiate orderly shutdown procedures,” Wheeler wrote in the email obtained by The Hill and Bloomberg Environment. The EPA did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment.

Employees who receive notification of their furlough status will need to update their voicemail and emails with out-of-office messages and will be barred from any work-related travel, according to Wheeler.

While the government officially shut down on Dec. 21, the EPA was able to continue operating because it had saved enough federal funds to carry over into the following week. Wheeler’s latest message to employees indicates that those funds are now running out. 

More than 700 EPA employees who are considered essential will be forced to work without pay during the shutdown, while the remaining “non-essential” workers, who number over 13,000, will be furloughed, according to the agency’s shutdown contingency plan.

According to the EPA’s plan, senior officials have to determine what work must continue during the shutdown or risk an imminent threat to public health, human safety or property.

The shutdown could potentially affect the EPA’s efforts to clean Superfund sites, where hazardous waste is contaminating land. In the contingency plan, signed last week, the agency announced that it would evaluate 800 contaminated Superfund sites to determine which ones pose the worst public health threats should a shutdown halt cleanup efforts.

Also affected are inspections for drinking water systems, hazardous waste management sites and chemical facilities, along with pesticide reviews.

In total, about 400,000 federal employees are expected to be affected by the partial government shutdown.

On Thursday, the House and Senate reconvened briefly and adjourned with few lawmakers in attendance. With no vote on the spending bill scheduled, the government shutdown is likely to extend into January, when Democrats take control of the House.

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