This includes shutting down almost all of the enforcement capabilities of the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"); indeed, approximately 94% of EPA employees are not working. Unfortunately, the consequences could be devastating. The indefinite closure of EPA’s operations poses major risks, some imminent and others long term, to the health and natural environment of millions of Americans.
EPA enforces regulations and laws that provide vital protections against many environmental hazards, problems, and difficulties. Specifically, EPA addresses the following
* emission of toxic air pollutants;
* emission of toxic water pollutants;
* contamination of public drinking water supplies;
* exposure of children to asbestos and lead paint;
* release of toxic chemicals from long-abandoned hazardous waste dumps;
* destruction of fish, shellfish and other aquatic life.
Due to Congress’s shutdown of the federal government, nearly all of these important EPA enforcement tasks (and also the channeling of federal environmental enforcement funds to the states), is now completely stopped.
Additionally, there are countless ongoing investigations involving major environmental enforcement activities that must be put on hold. Thousands of environmental ligation matters are being stayed because – while the Federal Courts are open(deemed essential) – the attorneys on behalf of EPA are not at their jobs. Further, almost all EPA scientists are not going into the field to inspect facilities for air and water pollution violations. And EPA’s ability to form new enforcement cases is completely halted for the time being.
Further, another consideration is what the view from the outside is towards the EPA regarding this shutdown. Are companies increasing their pollution outflows due to a lack of enforcement? Will the prospect of future shutdowns deter talented future environmental protection employees from choosing careers in government service?.
Succinctly, the longer the federal government remains shut down the more at risk our natural environment becomes. Consequently, for the sake of our air, water, and land, we can only hope that Congress and the President will soon come to their senses and reopen the federal government before the results of Congress’s childish shutdown will become even more serious and catastrophic towards our natural environment that it currently is.