WASHINGTON Feb 7 The U.S. Energy Department has
notified its employees that it may have to place workers on
temporary furloughs and slash "vital programs" if
across-the-board budget cuts take place as scheduled in March.
President Barack Obama and lawmakers in Congress have been
sparring over how to address the deep automatic spending cuts
due on March 1, known as "sequestration."
"Given that less than one month remains until these cuts
would take effect ... our senior leadership team is engaged in
extensive planning efforts to determine how we would deal with
sequestration," Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman said in an
internal letter to department employees obtained by Reuters.
First reported by Bloomberg BNA, the letter said the
department may have to consider putting employees on furlough to
deal with the cuts, as well cutting administrative costs related
to travel, training and supplies.
The department may also need to curtail vital programs and
spending on contracts.
Poneman did not specify which programs were at risk for
Dan Reicher, executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center
for Energy Policy, said in an interview earlier this month that
the agency's ability to carry out the president's goal to tackle
climate change may be tested by budget cuts.
Reicher has been mentioned as a possible successor to Steven
Chu, who announced last week he would not stay for Obama's
"There is a whole range of activities that DOE is
undertaking from near term programs to longer term scientific
breakthroughs and everything in between that will add
significantly to carbon emission reductions," Reicher said.
"A lot of that has been out of the president's control. It
depends on whatever appropriations congress provides and will be
dictated by how much funding it has."
(Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Bernard