Chalk it up to terrible timing on Google's part.
Today, October 1, the 'doodle' on the search engine's homepage rightly pays tribute to the 123rd birthday of Yosemite National Park, home to some of America's most idyllic natural wonders like Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and El Capitan.
But in a cruel twist of fate, would-be tourists have been barred from entering the park because of the last night's government shutdown, when the House and Senate failed to settle a budget impasse over Obamacare. The shutdown, the government's first since 1995, has furloughed roughly 800,000 federal employees, many of whom work in energy and environment departments.
Here’s a brief rundown on how the closure affects all things green—be they national parks like Yosemite, toxic Superfund sites, or clean tech research divisions within the Department of Energy, for example.
—The National Park Service: The United States is home to 401 national parks, everything from redwood forests in California to Civil War battlefields in Pennsylvania. Tourists vacationing in these parks and forests have been given 48 hours to vacate the premises. While roads that provide access to park features have been gated, roads that traverse parks will stay open. Twenty thousand of the NPS’ 23,000 employees have been furloughed, but essential law enforcement, maintenance, and fire personnel will be allowed to work.
—The National Weather Service: Weather forecasts will continue to be issued by meteorologists at the NWS “because they provide the nation with weather, water, and air quality forecasts and warnings to imminent threats,” according to a 2011 shutdown contingency plan of the Department of Commerce. The NWS is a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, itself a division of the DOC. About 5,400 NOAA employees, or 45 percent of its workforce, were furloughed.
—The Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Because of “carryover” funding, which is basically 2012 money that was not used up, the NRC will remain open for at least a week under normal business operations. But if the shutdown stretches past this point, the agency will have to furlough all but 300 of its 3,900 employees. Most of those who have stayed on are nuclear reactor inspectors and staff that respond to accidents.
—The Department of Energy: The DOE gets a majority of its funding from multi-year appropriations, allowing its employees to “continue to report for work as scheduled” an agency spokesman told Politico yesterday. In short: the department will operate as usual until there’s no money left. At that point, 1,113 of the DOE’s 13,814 employees will be sent home, including those conducting energy research according to a contingency plan posted on agency’s website. Those workers that oversee the safety of America’s nuclear arsenal, as well as officials that manage dams and power grids are exempt.
—The Fish and Wildlife Service: All 561 National Wildlife Refugees are now closed. Most of the FWS’ 7,000 employees have been sent home. About 500 employees, whose salaries are paid by a permanent appropriation, are being allowed to continue to care for animals at parks.
And, last but not least…
—The Environmental Protection Agency: According to plans released last week, 94 percent of the EPA’s 16,205 employees have been furloughed. Workers who oversee projects like Superfund cleanup sites have been sent home, unless it was deemed that their work posed an "imminent threat" to public health. Lab scientists might need to work to ensure that research is not ruined. Those employees that write the laws that regulate U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, for example, have also been sent home.