Government Shutdown Furloughs Pollution Inspectors, Slows Infrastructure Projects

In its fourth week, the partial shutdown of the federal government leaves U.S. EPA inspectors off duty and stalls infrastructure projects

Government Shutdown Furloughs Pollution Inspectors, Slows Infrastructure Projects

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Now entering its fourth week, the partial federal government shutdown triggered by President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall proposal could have environmental consequences and is slowing down infrastructure projects across the country.

For the time being, the shutdown has triggered the absence of most of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s pollution inspectors, according to The New York Times. “There are plants that discharge wastewater into streams and rivers, places that store hazardous chemicals in containers that could leak — we show up and test these places to see if they’re meeting pollution laws,” EPA inspector Garth Connor tells The Times. “Now there’s nobody out there to check if they’re complying.”

In an effort to get the government back on track, the U.S. House of Representatives has considered appropriations bills to reopen certain departments and agencies. Among those bills is HR266, which would provide $35.9 billion for the Department of Interior, EPA and other agencies. The House passed HR266 Jan. 11 by a 240-179 vote, and it moved on to the Republican-led Senate where it was shelved waiting for a resolution of Trump’s request for border wall funding.

Meanwhile, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on furlough, new Rural Development loans aren’t being processed, leaving small towns like the city of Russellville, Missouri, stalling on infrastructure projects. Millions of dollars in highway funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation and post-disaster aid via U.S. Housing & Urban Development also are on hold while the government shutdown drags on.

In other shutdown-related news, the federal government currently owes Washington, D.C., $5 million for water service to its buildings. While the bill isn’t yet overdue, some members of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority Board have voiced concerns.

ABC News reports that the board chairman asked if there was a time, theoretically, when the authority would cut someone’s water off due to nonpayment, and another board member cheekily asked “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — Is that what you’re talking about?”

The utility’s spokesperson, Vincent Morris, tells ABC News the government typically pays at the start of fiscal quarters. “We anticipate the outstanding balance for the second quarter will be paid in full once the shutdown ends.”


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