The coal industry has already claimed one victory this week with the withdrawn nomination of Ron Binz, and it may stand to gain -- if only marginally -- from the government shutdown as well. The shutdown, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, could delay the implementation of tightened standards for new power plants.
The forced cutback of employees, the agency said in an email, would delay the rules' publication in the Federal Register, which in turn would set back the 60-day comment period and required public hearing before the implementation of new regulations.
Still, any delays are likely to be insignificant, said former EPA air official Jeff Holmstead. "If the disruption has an impact, it's likely to be on lower priority things," Holmstead said. "[EPA staffers are] part of a process that takes years, so a government shutdown of a few days or a few weeks doesn't really have a big impact. ... On a rulemaking of this size, EPA almost always extends the rulemaking anyway."
The agency also cited the fact that staff members affected by the shutdown would be unable to answer public questions on the new regulations, and a lengthy shutdown could interfere with the 11 planned public listening sessions on the issue. But since the rules have already been made public, Holmstead said, "that's not really a significant part of rulemaking at this point."
Amy Harder contributed to this article.