With congressional budget talks at an apparent standstill and a government shutdown looming at press time Friday, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and other federal agencies were preparing to operate in an essential operations-only scenario, while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said it would conduct business as usual — at least temporarily.

The federal government was due to run out of money and shut down most nonessential services if a budget agreement wasn’t reached by 12:01 a.m. EDT Saturday. Approximately 800,000 federal employees would be furloughed for the duration of a shutdown, according to the White House.

In the event of a government shutdown, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would no longer have current-year budget authority to fund the cost of its operations, but it would have prior-year budget authority, which could be used to continue operating through April 22, a FERC spokesman said Friday. All FERC employees were expected to report for work on Monday (April 11).

“The Commission will remain open and continue to conduct business as usual,” the spokesman said.

With certain exceptions, FERC would be required to stop operating on April 22 if Congress has not acted and the Commission has exhausted the prior-year funds.

In the event of a shutdown, the CFTC said the “vast bulk of the agency’s operations will cease.” It said it would have only 25 staff members overseeing the markets, which would allow the stock markets, commodities and futures exchanges to continue to operate.

“The limited contingent of excepted employees has been identified to ensure…that a bare minimum level of oversight and surveillance of the futures markets, clearing operations and intermediaries is maintained,” said CFTC COO Madge Bolinger Gazzola.

“Of the 675 employees at the CFTC, 25 have been identified as exempted from the restrictions of the Antideficiency Act because their work is necessary to address an imminent risk to the safety of human life or the protection of property. This represents 3.7% of the CFTC’s staff.”

The five CFTC commissioners would be exempt from furlough during the shutdown period, the agency said, but their staffs would be subject to furlough if the federal government closes its doors.

With limited exceptions, all employees who are not identified as excepted would require no more than four hours to conduct an orderly shutdown of agency operations, Gazzola said. And six employees of the CFTC Office of Financial Management would require no more than two work days to complete an orderly shutdown of their activities.

The Interior Department has indicated that a government shutdown would freeze its permitting actions, but inspections of oil and gas rigs would continue.

But Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) said Interior, which has about 500 employees involved in inspections and safety decisions for offshore drilling operations, was only able to retain six inspectors during the government shutdown in 1995.

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