A federal furlough that would result from a partial government shutdown on Tuesday would hamper regulation and safety oversight in the mining industry, Environment & Energy Publishing warned Monday.
About 960 employees from the Mine Safety and Health Administration could be placed on furlough at the Office of Surface Mining, and without an agreement on a continuing resolution to fund the government, the OSM, the nation’s top coal mine regulator, would be forced to shutter most operations.
"Given the imminent threat that emergencies present to public health and safety, it is necessary to maintain an ongoing emergency program in the event of a departmentwide shut down," said the agency's planning document.
A new stopgap measure or a formal budget is needed to appropriate money for government operations in the 2014 fiscal year, which begins Tuesday. A formal budget has been elusive for months because of disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over spending and taxes. A stalemate on the temporary spending measure -- the continuing resolution -- has come about because the GOP's tea party faction in the House is pressuring their leaders to stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
As a backup, the MSHA said it would do its best to inspect mines, especially those that are hazardous and pose a threat.
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“In our opinion, these expected functions meet the Department of Justice test that there be a reasonable likelihood that safety of life and property would be compromised if the functions are not performed," Joe Main, head of MSHA, said in a planning memo. He added that in the event of emergencies like a mine disaster, “additional employees would be identified to work for the duration of the emergency."