At 12:03 a.m. this morning, after lawmakers in Congress failed to reach agreement on funding the government, thousands of federal employees lumbered out into the streets of Washington, D.C. looking for taxpayer money to spend.
They knocked over trash cans, stuck their hands through windows and stopped cars in the street, hoping to find enough money to fund their jobs. However, without government money to fuel them, they remained weak and barely able to function. They were only able to scrape up enough money to keep a copy machine running at the Environmental Protection Agency.
"How are we going to create green jobs now?" asked one man, carrying a vintage solar module from Solyndra, looking to sell it for a few dollars.
Compounding the problem, NASA announced that its asteroid watch Twitter feed would go dark if the government lost funding -- hindering efforts to educate the public if an asteroid were to hit earth. The city was on the verge of descending into chaos....
In the event of government shutdown, we will not be posting or responding from this account. We sincerely hope to resume tweets soon.— Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) October 1, 2013
To those outside Washington who learn about the government shutdown by watching cable news, this is what the situation may seem like. It's decidedly less epic in reality. But the consequences are still wide-reaching for the 818,000 federal employees -- many outside Washington -- who will be officially furloughed due to Congress' inability to agree on funding the government.
So what does it mean for agencies with a role in energy? Here are a few.
Department of Energy (DOE):
For now, most of DOE's employees can still report to work. Because the department is funded by multi-year appropriations, operations will mostly continue as normal. However, if the shutdown continues for an extended period of time and the department runs out of money, only 1,113 of 13,814 employees will have jobs. According to DOE's plan for a lapse in funding, the office of energy efficiency and renewable energy would halt operations and only retain enough staff to protect property. The same goes for the Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Energy Information Administration.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
It looks like America's environmental cop is going to be taken off the beat. The vast majority of workers at the agency are to be furloughed at the agency, with only enough remaining on staff to "keep the lights on and respond in the event of a significant emergency," according to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Since only 7 percent of employees will remain at the EPA, there could be more delays in releasing guidance on the Renewable Fuels Standard, delays in developing new regulations for CO2 emissions at power plants, and a halt to other environmental permitting. Workers will be at the office for up to four hours today, but must leave after shutting down operations.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC):
After it runs out of money, the nation's top energy regulator will be forced to furlough around 95 percent of its staff, retaining only five commissioners and a few dozen employees. Although regulatory filings will cease, there will still be core staff out in the field doing security inspections of hydro projects and liquefied natural gas terminals, as well as a "minimum level" of monitoring electricity markets.
Department of the Interior:
More than 58,000 people out of 72,500 Interior employees around the country will be furloughed. The most immediate impact will be felt at national parks, where "park roads will be closed and access will be denied." The Interior Department encompasses a number of key agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Land Management. Although national parks would be shuttered, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management reports that "drilling operations will resume" as normal for oil and gas.
It will take days -- or even weeks -- for the full impact to be felt at agencies. Congress could still come to an agreement on funding the government soon. But with House Republicans unable to drop a controversial provision to delay Obamacare, it's possible the shutdown will continue.