EPA headquarters in Washington. Robin Bravender/E&E News

Shutdown effects trickle down to states, grantees

Southern California air regulators yesterday held a regularly scheduled meeting. EPA didn't make it.

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A senior agency official was on the agenda to give a phone rundown on the past year's activities but never called in, according to a spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. If no explanation was given, none was needed; more than 90 percent of EPA's workforce is currently furloughed without pay.

With no end in sight to a partial government shutdown that began late last month, the trickle-down effects are starting to pile up. If these are more headaches than hardships so far, worries about the long-term outlook are also mountin

"I'm concerned, and the longer it goes on, the more concerned we will get," Lisa Feldt, vice president of environmental protection and restoration at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said in an interview.

Participating governments in the cleanup program for the nation's largest estuary are facing an April deadline to turn in drafts of a third and final round of "watershed implementation plans." But with that "critical juncture" looming, Feldt said, the Chesapeake Bay Program office — a federal facility in Annapolis, Md., whose staff includes dozens of employees from EPA, the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies — is closed. Among those furloughed is Dana Aunkst, who was supposed to settle in as the program's new director last week (Greenwire, Dec. 12, 2018).

Elsewhere, the shutdown has taken EPA pollution inspectors off the job, slowed enforcement actions and halted water sampling analysis, according to interviews and email exchanges with more than a dozen people familiar with the agency's work.

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