WASHINGTON The acting head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned staff on Tuesday that it may place an unspecified number of jobs on temporary furlough if across-the-board federal budget cuts take effect at the end of this week.
Bob Perciasepe, acting administrator of the EPA, wrote in an email that despite taking early measures to cut agency spending on contracts, grants and administration in recent months, furloughs are inevitable.
"Even with these actions, the arbitrary nature of the required budget cuts of sequestration would force us to implement employee furloughs over the remainder of the fiscal year, ending on September 30, 2013," Perciasepe wrote.
President Barack Obama and lawmakers in Congress have yet to resolve how to avoid the deep automatic spending cuts due on March 1, known as "sequestration."
Perciasepe said the agency will provide employees with 30 days notice before any furlough process begins. The EPA will try to minimize the burden on staff while trying to meet its regulatory obligations, he added.
The agency is also meeting with its national unions to prepare a plan, Perciasepe said.
The Energy Department warned workers of furloughs on February 7.
Furloughs at the EPA could create slowdowns in some of the agency's ongoing projects at a time when Obama has signalled that federal agencies will play a leading role in carrying out his promise to respond to the threat of climate change.
Among other things, the EPA is due to finalize rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants within a few months.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Jan Paschal)