A lot of drilling gets regulated and ruled on at the local or state level, so a short federal government shutdown didn't concern me. My readers can get to work, get their jobs done and make a living. No problem.
But, the shutdown drags on. Every day brings another tantalizing hint that our elected leaders can make some sense out of this mess. Every day brings a little more disappointment. Those leaders can hold great press conferences. They can negotiate behind the scenes. But they can't seem to work out a solution to the government shutdown that makes all sides happy (or at least equally unhappy).
Drillers now see the trickle-down effect of the cash running out at the top. The Bureau of Land Management recently canceled oil and gas lease auctions in New Mexico and Montana. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says this mainly hurts small companies, the ones who can least afford it. In a longer shutdown, the ripples in the economy affect companies large and small.
It's not just the oil and gas folks, either. Furloughs have hobbled the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That means no Superfund cleanups. That means no environmental drilling to check cleanup progress.
Half of all federal mine safety inspectors went on furlough. Oversight keeps drillers and other mine workers safe, and investigates when accidents do happen.
On the science side, the WISSARD research drilling project in the Antarctic has halted. Since the project's original funding expires next year, scientists would need special permission to finish experiments already years in the making. In this political climate, nothing's certain.
I'm sure other effects on drillers will arise if this goes on much longer. Drillers, after all, are a regulated bunch who work on contracts. Like 'em or leave 'em, regulations are fueled by tax dollars. No dollars, no on-the-job safety net. No dollars, no government contracts. Right now, I bet there are drillers twiddling their thumbs due to stalled federal contracts. It won't be long before the lack of federal funds starts stalling state and local contracts, too.
Set politics aside for a minute. You may disagree with the president on everything. You may question the IQs of certain House or Senate members. You might even think the government should be small enough to drown in a bathtub. But when disagreement in Washington starts to affect your pockets, it becomes very real.
For the good of contactors, their families and others who are bystanders in this process, the shutdown needs to end. It endangers their paychecks, health and safety. We can have all the discussion we want about scope of government after. But the shutdown isn't abstract anymore. It's real (and getting more real for contractors as it wears on), it's affecting drillers and it needs to end.
What do you think? Are you idled from a federal or state project due to the shutdown? I always like to hear from readers about their experiences. Send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe out there, drillers.