We all know that just about anything can change in an election cycle year. From policy and funding to who’s sitting on the bench and who’s railing on the house floor. Really the only safe bet we can make is that about half of everything we know at this time will change. The same is true for the rules and regulations that drive environmental consulting.
With every change of administration or swing in the balance of power in the courts or Congress, legislation that affects environmental regulation invariably shifts.
- The laws become stricter in favor of more governmental oversight whether that be at the federal, state or municipal level,
- Or they loosen which lends to more leeway in how construction projects are planned and with what frequency.
Nationwide Permit 12
For example, in just the last 120 days or so, Nationwide Permit 12, one of the most common permitting vehicles that many of us employ, was vacated, a stay on the vacatur denied, and then it was ultimately reinstated with a notable exception. Proponents on both sides of the aisle each got a turn to claim victory over the course of how this piece of regulation would be implemented. This caused consultants and federal agencies across the country to scramble, strategize, and try to chart courses no one could have predicted.
Navigable Waters Rule
In just the last 60 days, the Navigable Waters Rule was revised. Those changes in language and their interpretation could have a decided impact on how we propose, bid, perform, and permit the work necessary on projects.
While these have been some of the more significant events, there are even smaller bits of legislation that govern our work that gets challenged in the courts all the time. It’s this tide that we are called upon to navigate as environmental consultants.
So how do we efficiently and effectively address the regulatory changes that we may face every 2-4 years?
Step 1: STAY CALM!
As environmental consultants, we are an informed sounding board and a way to brainstorm how to get projects permitted and constructed on time. Our reactions to these changes can’t be “reactionary.” They have to be measured and handled with the understanding that this isn’t the first time things have changed, and it won’t be the last. We’ve learned to reroute (a little pipeline humor) before, and we’ll do it again to continue to be leaders in the industry.
Step 2: STAY INFORMED
We make sure we stay abreast of the regulatory revisions from one administration or change of power to the next. From news to training to conversations with industry colleagues, we have to be proactive in seeking the information needed.
When change occurs, communication early on in the process allows all parties to be aware and discuss how this might affect the project. Conversely, it’s just as important to understand what changes actually affect that specific project and what does not. Helping to wade through the facts versus fiction is essential.
Step 3: PRESENT SOLUTIONS, NOT PROBLEMS
It can be easy to get stuck in the cycle of complaining about how challenging the situation is or wondering how long it will actually last. Since life can already seem like one long conference call these days, it’s important not to belabor unproductive conversations.
One of my favorite authors on leadership, John Maxwell says that with either big wins or big losses, give yourself 24 hours to celebrate or mourn. Then MOVE ON. It’s a solid rule of thumb for these fluctuations of over or under-regulation as well. Take a short, specific amount of time to understand what’s happening, get your bearings, and then start coming up with solutions:
Step 4: TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED….OR NOT
With recommendations in hand, it’s time to choose a path! It’s at this point that you see who may be willing to push the envelope and who is not; who is willing to fight the fights and who would rather play it safe.
A good consultant shows the hurdles and pitfalls ahead. A great consultant shows the bridges and workarounds they’ve found or helped build to get the job done.
Written by: Lauren Maas
Lauren Maas has been in the environmental consulting field for 13 years. Educated and trained as an archaeologist, Lauren has also developed her skills as an overall project manager in order to better serve her clients. She enjoys running, spending time outdoors with her family and is a proud graduate of both Texas A&M University and the University of Houston. Gig’em and Go Coogs!