Now, for the first time in 16 days, the parking lot was full and the 900 employees who normally work there were in the building, he said.
"When I saw people back in the hallways, they were all just excited to be back to work," MacDonald said.
Russell Schnell, deputy director of NOAA's Global Monitoring Division, which monitors concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, said his team had a backlog of air samples to analyze, which will take them a few weeks to get through.
"We have about 500 or so that we'll get started on. We can only do 20 a day or so," said Schnell.
The Global Monitoring Division sends air sampling flasks out to a far-flung network of stations all over the world. During the shutdown, it was unable to send out flasks and standard gases to these stations, some of which had run out of them.
Overall, Schnell said the shutdown did not last long enough to create big gaps in the observational record, although there will be some gaps. Partly, this is because the researchers had sent extra flasks and gases out in advance of the shutdown.
"Had we gone another week or two, things would start falling apart, because we would really start running out of supplies," said Schnell.
EPA wakes up after 'deep sleep'
U.S. EPA employees trudged back to work yesterday to a trove of unheard voice mail messages and emails. The bright spot: muffins and hugs from Vice President Joe Biden (Greenwire, Oct. 17).
"It's like waking up after a deep sleep," said Julia Valentine, a press officer for the agency. Since reopening, EPA has notified employees of timing to return to work and has conducted maintenance on the agency's computer servers.
"EPA employees will work to tackle the three-week backlog on pesticide imports and other services as quickly as possible, however delays are expected in this process," wrote Alisha Johnson, the spokeswoman for the agency throughout the shutdown. "However, other important actions that did not take place during the shutdown, like air, water and hazardous waste inspections, cannot be made up."
The nearly three-week shutdown could delay the proposal of carbon dioxide emissions standards for existing power plants, expected by June 1 of next year, said a former EPA staffer who held an administrative role in the Office of Air and Radiation.
"Either they're going to have to find a way to make up those two weeks to get some of the analysis, some of the responses to comments, more quickly than they had planned, or they're going to have to delay the dates for the rules for a couple of weeks," he said.
Listening sessions in Boston and Philadelphia to gather public input for the proposal have been canceled, and rescheduled dates have yet to be announced. The listening sessions in nine other cities will continue as scheduled.
EPA has set a strict timeline for the rollout of two sets of New Source Performance Standards for the future and existing power fleet. The schedule will culminate in June 2016, when states must submit plans to outline how they will reach federal carbon standards -- just months before a presidential election. A new president could potentially disrupt the Obama administration's work on climate change (ClimateWire, June 26).
Rulemaking process not likely to slow
Rulemaking at EPA includes meeting with other agencies and departments, including the Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federally run utility. The closure of these coordinating agencies also burdens the process.