Does Government Shutdown Create Natural Disaster Risk?

Mike Tidwell SoundbiteAs Tropical Storm Karen made landfall over the weekend in parts of Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle, while tornados and snow hit parts of the Midwest, some of the weather forecasters and other key people needed during such an event weren't at work. The government furloughed 94 percent of EPA's employees and 87 percent at the Department of Commerce, which includes the National Weather Service.

Mike Tidwell with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network hopes the empty offices don't cost someone his life.

"God willing, there won't be some environmental disaster that occurs during this shutdown," he said. "Let's just hope that we can be lucky and get through these days of insufficient environmental protection so that no one gets killed."

According to the EPA, in the event of a disaster, some regional employees will be allowed to return to work. Tidwell also pointed out that with most of the EPA's offices closed, environmental permits can't be issued, inspections can't be performed and tests on drinking water cannot be conducted.

The Social Venture Network, a non-profit that strives to inspire businesses to address environmental and social issues, said listing almost all EPA employees as "non-essential" is indicative of the priority the federal government is placing on the environment. Tidwell agreed.

"That is really unfortunate and I think indicative of where this Congress is in terms of its alignment with the issues that really effect Americans," he said.

The Social Venture Network has invited Tidwell to speak at its October 17 conference in Baltimore.

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