Reason Takes a Holiday: Day 3: Daily Dings to our Health and Environment from the GOP's Government Shutdown

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In the days since House Republicans shut down the federal government, real world impacts have hit hard on the safeguards and precautions we all depend on to protect our environment and health.

I’ve been chronicling examples on this blog since Day One, and will continue as long as the shutdown lasts.

What’s disturbing is that the disruption, delay and damage this is causing didn’t have to happen at all. For congressional Republicans more interested in scoring political points than in governing the country, reason is taking a holiday.

Let’s hope these shenanigans can be brought to an end so that dedicated professionals across the country can get back to work protecting our air, water, wildlife and lands.


Day 3 of government shutdown: 

  • After Hiker Found Dead, Furloughs Delay Search for Her Missing Friend in Craters of the Moon National Monument

Hikers Jo Elliott-Blakeslee, 63, and Amy Linkert, 69, were last seen alive in Idaho’s rugged Craters of the Moon National Monument on September 19. Unfortunately, Linkert was found dead on September 25, but a federal search team kept scouring the treacherous terrain daily for Elliott-Blakeslee—until the government shut down. It forced all of the nation’s federal parks, monuments and historic sites to lock their gates, block their trails and close most offices. All 16 Craters of the Moon staff were furloughed Tuesday morning, forcing their search team off the trail.

This extraordinary development prompted Elliott-Blakeslee’s family to publicly call for experienced hikers to volunteer as searchers. With federal agencies closed, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office became the family’s only conduit for information to help steer them out into rough weather—lightning, rain and near-freezing temperatures—looking for the missing woman.

On Wednesday, the monument got word it received an exemption from the furlough rules. This enabled 10 staffers to return to work under “excepted” status so they could resume their search efforts for the aging hiker last seen nearly two weeks ago.

  • Lawsuit Delayed Seeking Cleanup of Cement Kiln Pollution Linked to Lung Ailments

Seventy-two year old Brenda Bibee, who lives about 12 miles from a cement plant in Mojave, California, and Ann Sears, 78, who lives near a cement kiln in Midlothian, Texas, both have serious lung problems that are aggravated by the excessive particulate matter and other hazardous pollutants, including mercury, emitted by these plants. 

A lawsuit filed on their behalf by the Natural Resources Defense Council and others seeks to force these and other cement plants around the country to clean up their dangerous pollution as soon as possible. But now the government, citing the shutdown, wants to delay the case. NRDC has objected, saying the delay would put Ms. Bibee’s and Ms. Sears’ health at further risk, adding that a favorable decision by a court “would save lives. Delaying such a ruling would cost lives.”   

**Good News Update: After this item was originally posted, the court denied the government’s request to delay the case.

  • Leaves Turning Color But Shutdown May Leave Cruise Ships at Sea and Bicyclists Scrambling

Acadia_National_Park_Coast courtesy Wikimedia.jpg

    The shutdown of beautiful Acadia National Park on Maine’s Mt. Desert Island during the height of the fall foliage season is wreaking havoc with local event planning. With 41 cruise ships scheduled to dock during October at nearby Bar Harbor, primarily to bus passengers into the park, the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce is busy promoting the town’s other splendors.  Whale watching, hiking, a flight over the park, wine tasting and dining on fresh lobster are all still available.

    Meanwhile, organizers of the Cadillac Challenge Century, an annual 100-mile bike ride in and around Acadia scheduled for this weekend, were scrambling to find a new staging area and a new route to replace the ride’s signature destination, the 1,530-foot summit of Cadillac Mountain. As many as 250 cyclists from around New England and as far away as Michigan had been expected to participate in the event, which started 22 years ago. 

    • FEMA Can’t Help States Plan for Future Natural Disasters

    If a natural disaster strikes now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will still be able to dive in to help victims, as it most recently did after the massive Colorado floods.

    But if Alabama wants help now to prepare for a major hurricane someday or Missouri for a damaging tornado or New Mexico for a forest-scarring wildfire—disasters that have hit them lately and could again—they’re out of luck.

    That’s because FEMA’s funding is frozen for new Hazard Mitigation Assistance grants states need to help them prepare for future natural disasters. Many states may not have the resources to begin projects that would reduce their vulnerability to disasters and protect their citizens and critical infrastructure. So, they won’t be able to proactively prepare for trouble. They’ll just have to pick up the pieces of their homes, belongings and lives when it comes.