"In any major rulemaking, there's a lot of economic, legal, analytic, policy coordination work that needs to be done," the former staffer said.
John Cooney, a former assistant solicitor general and deputy general counsel with the Office of Management and Budget during the Reagan administration, thinks the shutdown will leave little impact. OMB houses the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which reviews agencies' proposed and final regulations.
"The process at OMB and EPA in the rulemaking department is basically dealing with projects that have a long term, from beginning to end," he said. "They don't respond to breaking developments."
According to the OMB shutdown plan, staffers were expected to put projects in a state of "suspended animation," said Cooney, so that work on them could pick up immediately once Congress approved appropriations.
"Rulemakings lend themselves particularly well to that approach, I think, because they're data-driven, they're analytical to responding to real-world events," he said. "I think the agency staffs will come in and be able to pick them up immediately where they left off."
Currently, there are 18 EPA regulations pending at OMB, including the required levels for biofuels for 2014 under the federal renewal fuel standard. Other regulations include performance standards for residential wood heaters and adjustments to allowances for the production of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), powerful greenhouse gases.
Energy Department, KXL process make it through with reserves
The shutdown also slowed the State Department's work on a pending final environmental impact statement on TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil sands crude from Alberta to Texas' Gulf Coast. In a statement, a department official said State continued work during the shutdown but noted that finalizing the environmental impact statement involves consulting with "cooperating agencies."
In April, for example, EPA questioned State's conclusion in its draft environmental impact statement that KXL would not exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions if constructed (ClimateWire, April 23).
"Most of those cooperating agencies had a large number of staff furloughed, so that consultation process was slowed," the State official said. "We cannot make any predictions on when the final [impact statement] will be released." The department recently completed posting comments on a draft environmental statement -- but a final decision on the pipeline from the Obama administration could take months.
The Department of Energy, meanwhile, absorbed the shock with a surplus of previously appropriated funding, giving itself a few weeks to cruise until Congress sorted out the mess.
The agency, whose duties range from maintaining nuclear weapons to funding physical science research, employs 13,814 people. Officials at DOE did not respond to requests for comment, but before the shutdown, an agency spokeswoman cautioned that such an event would cripple the agency's capacity to carry out its mission if the dispute outlasted its reserve funds.
Most of DOE's 17 national laboratories continued operations as normal, though the facilities under the umbrella of the National Nuclear Security Agency, like Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, required some "rebalancing of funds," according to a lab representative.
Despite this, phone calls to Livermore yesterday were met with a recorded message announcing that the lab was closed due to a lapse in appropriations.
Agency appointments continue
Nonetheless, the idling government didn't stop personnel changes. Earlier this week, the Senate confirmed Bradley Crowell as assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs at the Energy Department. Crowell's job will include coordinating with states to advance clean energy.