Agencies reopen after partial federal government shutdown ends

Employees returned to work Oct. 17 and began to restore full federal services after the 112th Congress approved and US President Barack Obama signed legislation ending a 16-day partial government shutdown.

“You know, every time we needed to check on something, or pick up the phone, the person was furloughed,” US Sec. of the Interior Sally Jewell said in an Oct. 17 message to employees. “[It was] very, very frustrating for those who came in, and very challenging for those of you that weren’t able to come in. I appreciate that the uncertainty was very hard on you and very hard on your families. And I am just so happy that we are all back at work.

“You know, if there’s one silver lining in this shutdown, it is that the value that you bring to this country and to the American people is far more evident now than it was before the shutdown,” Jewell said, adding, “So I hope that when you come back, you come back with pride, you come back with enthusiasm.”

Jewell greeted employees returning to Interior’s headquarters in Washington on Oct. 17 as agencies’ offices across the country reopened. It quickly became apparent that it would take a few days for operations there and in other US government departments to return to normal.

The US Energy Information Administration, which had managed to stay open through Oct. 11, said on Oct. 17 that its Weekly Petroleum Status Report and Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report would not be published. “Schedules for the resumption of the reports will be announced as they become available,” it said in an e-mail.

This was the first time a government shutdown prevented publication of the reports, an EIA spokesman told OGJ. Weather-related problems delayed their release one time in 2010, he said. EIA is an independent agency within the US Department of Energy.

‘Standing up expeditiously’

At Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement, “employees are returning to work today and we are standing up as expeditiously as possible,” a spokesman said in response to an OGJ inquiry.

Workers there and in other Interior agencies were instructed to meet with supervisors to discuss startup procedures, cancel e-mail and voicemail out-of-office messages, check equipment and turn it back on, and complete time and attendance information for the Oct. 6-19 period. Employees who remained on duty to protect property and provide other essential services were told to supply time and attendance information as usual.

“Services such as information technology support and other contracted functions may not be fully operational, so please be patient,” Rhea Suh, Interior’s assistant secretary for policy, management, and budget, said in her Oct. 17 instructions to returning employees.

An employee at the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 8 office in Denver told OGJ similar activities were under way there to resume full operations. “It’s good to be back,” he added.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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