Under the Dome

Government is shut down, but EPA remains open — for now

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks at a news conference Wednesday, April 19, 2017, in East Chicago, Ind., following a tour of a public-housing complex where roughly 1,000 people were ordered evacuated because of lead contamination.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks at a news conference Wednesday, April 19, 2017, in East Chicago, Ind., following a tour of a public-housing complex where roughly 1,000 people were ordered evacuated because of lead contamination. AP

The federal government shutdown entered its third day Monday, but employees of the Environmental Protection Agency are not yet feeling the pinch.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, in a memo sent Friday, told employees of the agency to continue working this week despite the shutdown.

“At this time EPA has sufficient resources to remain open for a limited amount of time in the event of a government shutdown. All EPA employees should follow their normal work schedule for the week of January 22, 2018. Should the shutdown occur and remain in place through January 26, 2018, we will provide further updates on the agency’s operating status. In addition, all travel needs to be approved by the Administrator’s Office,” Pruitt said in the memo.

There are more than 1,000 federal employees at EPA offices in North Carolina. The state’s EPA-funded jobs include 341 state workers at the NC Department of Environmental Quality, many of whom issue federal permits and monitor violations under the federal Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

Under federal guidelines, “activities funded with appropriations of budget authority that do not expire at the end of one fiscal year, such as multiple-year and no-year appropriations” may continue, according to the Congressional Research Service. “In addition, agencies that receive most or all of their budget authority for their day-to-day operations through means that are not dependent on annual appropriations acts, such as the U.S. Postal Service, would fall under this exception.”

In a December 2017 contingency plan for a government shutdown, the EPA outlined the strategy being implemented.

“In the event of a funding hiatus due to the lack of an appropriations act or a continuing resolution, the Agency will assess the availability of unexpired multiple and no-year appropriations as well as funds available from other sources.

“If it determines there is sufficient carryover for it to be practicable for the Agency to operate for a period of time until these appropriations and funds are close to being exhausted, it will do so. The Agency would proceed with shutdown activities when there is no longer sufficient carryover for it to be practicable for the Agency to operate,” the EPA said in its contingency plan.

The House passed a four-week funding bill to keep the government open late last week, but the Senate has been unable to pass the measure. It is the fourth short-term funding bill — known as a continuing resolution — that the government has needed to stay open since the fiscal year ended in late September.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate negotiated throughout the weekend and could vote on a three-week measure Monday. Most Senate Democrats are seeking assurances on a fix for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children, while a handful of Republicans have opposed the short-term bill because of its impacts on the military.

Brian Murphy: 202-383-6089, @MurphinDC

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