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US EPA prepares to close with no deal in sight to end shutdown

Washington — With no deal in sight to end the partial US government shutdown before the new year, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency told staff Thursday to prepare to close if Congress does not pass a budget by midnight Friday.

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EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said funds that have kept the agency operating as normal this week would run out Friday, and EPA would "initiate orderly shutdown procedures."

The stalemate between Congress and the White House appears to be headed into the new year, when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives.

An extended shutdown could affect the US energy and metals sectors, although impacts would be muted by three key bodies remaining open. The Energy Information Administration, the Department of Energy, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are operating normally, as their funding for fiscal 2018-19 was approved by Congress and signed by the president in September. Still, EIA relies on data from the Department of Commerce when reporting on US crude exports, for example.

Several upcoming Department of the Interior policies could be delayed if the shutdown stretches on.

The department is expected to release a proposed five-year offshore leasing plan in mid-January and a final rule on safety controls for offshore wells.

"It's difficult to predict timelines during a governmental shutdown," John Bockmier, Interior's communications director, said by email Wednesday. "Hopefully, we will remain on schedule."

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has limited staff on hand to monitor derivatives markets during the partial shutdown.

Funding for much of the federal government expired December 21 as talks broke down over President Donald Trump's request for money to build a wall at the southern border.

-- Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, newsdesk@spglobal.com