The Environmental Implications of a Government Shutdown
On Friday April 8, 2011, Republicans came within minutes of shuttingdown the federal government. While a government shutdown was narrowlyaverted this time, there is every reason to believe that Republicanswill try again in the coming months.
A federal governmentshutdown would have directly affected the environment and the economy.Although lawmakers would have continued to get a paycheck, 800,000federal workers would not, this includes government officials chargedwith the responsibility of protecting the environment. Additionally,many Americans might have seen a delay in receiving their income taxrefunds.
According to CNN, 368 National Park Service sites were closed during the last governmentshutdown which lasted 21 days and prevented 7 million people from beingable to visit US national parks. A government shutdown would have had an adverse economic impact in states across America. As reported on Yahoo! News, states like Indiana, would have closed three national parks and 30national natural landmarks, deterring 2 million visitors with an annualspend of more than $51 million.
A government shutdown also has very serious economic implications beyond important tourist dollars. As reported in the New York Times, The last shutdown shaved a full percentage point off the nation’s productivity.
A shutdown would have been very disruptive to everything from small business to renewable energy. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a memo, "For the American people, a shutdown of the Departmentof the Interior’s services would disrupt everything from familyvacations and small businesses that rely on tourism to renewable energyprojects.”
Important environmental cleanups would have beenabandoned and hazardous sites including mines, oil and gas productionfacilities, dams, aqueducts, nuclear power plants, would have gonewithout inspection. The Washington Post reported that toxic waste cleanup work was halted during the lastshutdown. 609 sites reportedly stopped their cleanup projects, and 2,400 Superfund workers were furloughed.
Almost 18,000 EPA employeeswould have been furloughed and their cleanup activities would have beensuspended. Climate research including NASA, NOAA, NSF would have shutdown which would have in turn hurt contractors, and small firms thatprovide goods and services to these scientific research organizations.
National Parks would have been shutdown and protection of natural areas wouldhave lapsed leaving these lands vulnerable to poachers and polluters.The last time there was a government shutdown there were also seriousproblems at national zoos across the country.
On the bright side, if Republicans had succeeded in shutting down government, it would have given the Democrats an opportunity to stand up against some of theRepublicans’ most egregious cost cutting efforts including attempts tostrip the EPA of many of its key regulatory powers.
Republicanscontinue to put their party interest ahead of national interest. Thecuts Republicans seek in environmental oversight would harm the planetand the health of Americans. The cuts Republicans seek in education andother programs would undermine the future competitiveness of theAmerican economy.
Republican’s cost cutting tenacity is proof of the Tea Party’s influence, and as they move ever further to the rightof center they are abandoning any hope for functional government.
America may have dodged a bullet this time, but Republican obstructionism doesnot bode well for the looming 2012 budget. With high unemployment and afragile economy emerging out of recession, this is a very bad time forRepublicans to pull the plug on government.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, sustainable investor, writer and owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog that covers the convergence of sustainable capitalism and the global environment.The Green Market is one of the most comprehensive resources for information and tools on sustainability. Follow The Green Market's twitter feed and see the Facebook Fan Page. Richard is a contributor to more than 50 publications. Find him on Facebook and Linkedin.
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