The Politics of the Environment

It’s all about getting along, living green, and saving the planet. This is the naïve view of many of the young college graduates whose only exposure to the environmental consulting world is the college campus and an internship with a local environmental group.

In reality, the environmental business is extremely political, tends toward the “ugly,” and can devastate individuals and companies.

Case in point is the video that surfaced earlier this year, where the (now former) EPA Region 6 Administrator drew an analogy between Roman crucifixion and EPA enforcement action. Here is an excerpt from this now infamous video.

“It’s kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years. And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not compliant with the law and you hit them as hard as you can and make examples of them.”

While there has been plenty of backpedaling, apologies, explanations, and at least one resignation, this comment or perhaps more appropriately, this attitude or ideology, reflects a part of the real environmental challenge faced by businesses.

Is this attitude shared by every regulator? Clearly not – but when companies are facing site closures, remediation, or compliance issues, especially those involving enforcement, they cannot afford to have a naïve viewpoint or to simply follow the orders or dictates of a regulator. To do so, could mean no end to the regulator’s “requests.”

Taking a tough stance and using good science to back our position is something we have done consistently since we began, nearly 25 years ago. In fact, a paper mill company we worked for many years ago set the tone for how we approach projects on behalf of our clients. The “no action” we were able to negotiate was critical for our client. A recent update by the EPA further vindicates the science we used to design our approach.

As for getting along, living green, and saving the planet – if it’s backed by science, logic, and reason, we’re right there. However, we’ll have to descent on the approach of crucifixion as a means of enforcement.

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