James Montgomery, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
October 01, 2013 | 13 Comments
New Hampshire, USA -- So here we are: the U.S. federal government is in shutdown mode after Congress failed to pass the budget. We've seen this several times in the past couple of decades, usually ranging from a few hours to a few days, though the most recent one lasted nearly a month from late 1995 into early January 1996.
First things first: this shutdown hits home for roughly 800,000 government workers. The Department of the Interior (DOI) would furlough about 58,000 employees out of its 72,000+ employees, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) expects to furlough all but around 600 of its approximately 10,800 employees. Ninety-four percent of EPA staff are impacted, as are 97 percent of NASA employees. Federal housing loans halt, as do processing of visas and passports. National parks, zoos, and museums close down.
On top of that, the timing of this shutdown couldn't be much worse. The U.S. budget "debt ceiling" arrives on Oct. 17, and unless Congress agrees to hike the spending limit, the planet's biggest economy risks defaulting on its nearly $17 trillion debt.
Here's how the U.S. federal government shutdown could directly impact the renewable energy sector:
Project permitting and approval: The Interior Department is working to approve up to 20 GW of renewable energy production on public lands by 2020. For a sense of the types of renewable energy projects that are now at risk of delay, here are some examples of recently-approved renewable energy projects on public lands, showing how active the DOI has been in the past couple of years.
At the BLM, "processing of applications and any kinds of NEPA analysis will be suspended," according to an agency representative. Construction on projects that don't need BLM field monitoring or oversight can continue, providing they're not operating on sites that themselves are closed because of the federal shutdown. One example of an approval in the queue: the BLM has been directed to prioritize <a href="http://apps1.eere.