Strategies for Success with Environmental Regulatory Relations: Part 3

We’ve been discussing strategies for better relations with environmental regulators. We talked about building positive relationships in Part 1 and communicating our interests in Part 2. In this article, we focus on the process and not the people to achieve a desired outcome.

 

STRATEGY NO. 3

Focus on the process, not the people.

Management Consultant, Edwards Deming said, “A bad system will beat a good person every time.” Any number of competent people can make the same mistakes when using a faulty or cumbersome process. Likewise, if we dismiss the regulatory process and focus solely on the regulatory personnel, we may overlook the root cause of difficulties when navigating a complex bureaucratic system.

Consider the regulator’s perspective. Industry advocates or public watchdog groups often challenge their decisions. The regulator is held responsible when environmental problems occur (i.e. Why did you issue that permit? Why didn’t you shut them down?). They anticipate the worst possible outcome of their decisions so that when rules are silent or ambiguous the regulator leans toward conservative options instead of creative solutions. Previous decisions in similar circumstances represent precedence that the regulator is unlikely to change. Their perspective is formed by their experience or the experiences of their colleagues.

Labeling regulators as uncooperative, biased, or “out to get us”, will not advance our interests. More times than not, if we have built relationships (see Part 1), articulated our interests (see Part 2), and know the processes around regulatory control, we can find an agreeable solution that maintains the integrity and intent of environmental protection regulations.

Tips to consider:

    1. Understand the regulatory process.
      Most agencies have an environmental assistance or customer service office that can help navigate regulatory processes. Use them to better understand how the regulatory process can work for you.
    2. Know the regulatory personnel (and personalities).
      Before concluding that the regulator is “out to get you”, view the circumstances from their perspective. How can you achieve your desired outcome that withstands objective scrutiny?
    3. Research the precedenceSometimes the regulations are silent or vague on an issue and agencies fill the gap with guidance. How have they interpreted regulations or guidance in the past with situations like yours? How is your situation different?

 

Need help?

Draper Aden Associates has several former regulators on staff to assess your regulatory needs and help maintain compliance. Find out how we can help you overcome obstacles with environmental regulations. Contact Us.