The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates transportation accidents, has sent 383 of its 410 employees home. It has suspended work on more than 1,000 ongoing investigations, including its investigation of the pipeline explosion in Sissonville last December.
Deborah Hersman, chairman of the NTSB and a West Virginia native, said there have been 14 accidents since the shutdown began -- including a school bus accident in Tennessee and a worker who died on the D.C. Metro subway system -- that the agency has been unable to investigate because of the shutdown.
"Safety delayed is safety denied," Hersman said.
Alan Leshner, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said if the shutdown persists until Monday, the United States will have to cancel its entire season of research in the Antarctic, jeopardizing hundreds of continuing projects in astronomy, physics, weather and biology.
The Antarctic research is just one example of thousands of studies that Leshner said depend on consistent data. Gaps caused by the shutdown could mean years of research would go to waste. Leshner said the damage from the shutdown compounds the damage caused by cuts to research budgets imposed by the sequester.
"Long-term studies depend on continuity," Leshner said. "This shutdown has come as a very serious blow to an already beleaguered American scientific enterprise.
"Many competitor countries are increasing science budgets in spite of similar economic conditions," he said.
NASA has furloughed 17,000 of its 18,000 employees, and the National Science Foundation has sent 1,970 of its 2,000 employees home.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has sent home 518 of its 540 employees. That means its inspectors are not screening shipments from places like China to make sure that toys are free of lead and bedding is not flammable.
On Monday, a 2-year-old girl died in San Diego when a television fell off a chest of drawers and crushed her. That's the kind of accident the CPSC would investigate if its inspectors were on the job.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulates trading on Wall Street. The CFTC has sent home 680 of its 708 employees.
"They're monitoring a $300-trillion market," said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. "How many people are being ripped off, right now? The cops are off the beat."
Rockefeller called the piecemeal funding approach taken by the House "gimmickry."
"The real effect of it . . . is to lessen the pressure on the House to do what the House has to do and which the House doesn't want to do," he said. "All I have to do is think of MSHA not inspecting the coal mines in West Virginia and I can spend three weeks being angry . . . I think this is [either] a holistic solution or it's a catastrophic result for the United States of America."
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.