How the Federal Government Shutdown Impacts Our Environment, National Parks, and Public Health

The ongoing federal government shutdown has brought several consequences to our environment and public health. Most importantly, the shutdown has left much of the EPA’s 14,000 employees furloughed. Many local projects, such as air quality monitoring and Superfund site cleanup including the Gowanus Canal in New York City, are suspended. For example, the staff of the Office of Land and Emergency Management, responsible for cleanup of toxic Superfund sites, has been reduced from 468 people to just three.

Regulatory activities are also on hold, including inspections of power plants, reviews of toxic substances and pesticides, and approval of wetlands for protection.

Other services under the EPA could also be affected, such as scientific research.

The shutdown has repercussions to our public lands as well.

Most national parks and monuments remain unstaffed, with basic services stopped. Because of this, the health of these public lands is in danger. Uncollected trash is piling up and normally protected wildlife is now threatened by poaching and other abuse. Damage to the scenic beauty of the parks and cultural artifacts may also occur.

National parks, beaches, and trails have already been suffering from a lack of funding.  Congress let the Land & Water Conservation Fund expire on September 30th and ended the legislative session without reauthorizing it. Nearly 1,500 NYLCV members had sent messages to Congressmember urging them to permanently restore this integral program. Members can continue to make their voice heard by completing the action here.

In New York, Governor Cuomo announced that the State will pay to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open during the shutdown, however other national parks including Federal Hall are temporarily closed.

NYLCV will continue to advocate for an end to the shutdown that includes robust funding and enforcement of environmental regulations.