As the government shutdown enters its third week, new and disturbing side effects are beginning to surface. These adverse affects are arising from the U.S. court system, where federal prosecutors are unable to perform their day-to-day activities in many cases due to a lack of federal funding.
While this is bad news for American citizens, it is great news to oil giant ExxonMobil. The federal prosecutors handling the case against Exxon for their Pegasus pipeline tar sands spill have been forced to request that the judge overseeing the lawsuits against Exxon delay the suit until government operations resume.
The U.S. attorneys and environmental investigators from the Justice Department and EPA are unable to work on the case due to the lack of funding. According to the Associated Press, these workers are not even able to work on the case on their own time without pay, since it is a federal, not civil, suit.
In addition to the federal lawsuit, Exxon is currently facing at least $1.7 million in federal fines for the tar sands spill. But again, as long as the government remains partially shut down, there is not enough staff to go around, and those fines will remain unpaid. It is estimated that at least 94% of the entire EPA staff is currently furloughed as a result of the government shutdown.
This news is particularly disturbing for the residents of Mayflower, Arkansas, as they had worked very hard to get the lawsuit fast-tracked in the wake of the spill earlier this year. The longer the shutdown lasts, the longer it will take for justice to be served against Exxon. It also means that residents will go even longer without relief from the dangers affects of the diluted bitumen.