The Environmental Permit Process Exposed
As the inimitable Ray Arnold said in Jurassic Park, “Hold on.” It’s starting to get tough here.
Why? Because we’re about to blow the top of this mess. Seriously, folks, we’re dealing with a mounting climate crisis and untold swathes of land under development, and we can’t tackle either one because of an old, broken, legally clogged system.
No, we are not talking about daylight saving time. Although, while we’re on the subject…
just kidding. We are talking about the environmental permit process. Simply put, it’s whack. And it’s time someone did something about it.
Looks like we need to take that baton. Be the change you want to be and all that. Let’s start.
Environmental permits in a nutshell
Chances are you’re already familiar with the concept of environmental due diligence, but if not, here’s your crash course.
Since the advent of the EPA in the 1970s, environmental consultants have been the gatekeepers of all land development. They have the monopoly of controlling the timetable, pricing and resources for commercial developers, who have no choice but to go through their environmental research process to obtain environmental permits for their land use projects.
If you’ve just had a minor heart attack, chances are this sounds all too familiar.
The Problem: Outdated System Run by Autocratic “Advisers”
Let’s be honest. The definition of ‘consultant’ means that you have something to say here. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. To know:
- Your advisor is not looking for your input. They’ll do it as they will, and you can kiss warmly until they’re done.
- So, when will they be ready? When they feel like it! They are not interested in speeding up the process or meeting your timelines.
- The engagement of an advisor is usually a requirement. You can’t get the job done anywhere else. It’s cute that you thought you could do it, though!
Yes. That’s how it is.
Since these laws were enacted 50 years ago, any developer who wants to… you know, wants to develop… has had to put up with this. The number of ulcers alone is unimaginable, but perhaps even more striking is that this process takes a real toll on the environment today. Suppose a developer does not know that he needs a specific environmental permit, or that it is too difficult to get that information. This will be at the expense of species, air quality and water resources.
Mother Earth gets an ulcer herself.
Environmental compliance shouldn’t be that complicated.
Why is there a delay? What Environmental Licensing Consultants Don’t Want You to Know
Manual, personal, environmental consulting fieldwork takes place behind a veil of secrecy. It doesn’t scale. And it must be exposed for what it is: a scam.
Environmental permit consultants invoice per hour. There is absolutely no visibility into what they are doing to justify their exorbitant fees and long time schedules. Clients don’t find out how the consultants spent their time until they get the (often questionable) final written environmental assessment.
It’s not just your average Joe that’s affected, either. Even SpaceX had to reschedule a launch due to an environmental impact assessment in the summer of 2021. And you know if it happens to Elon Musk, something is broken. This medieval process means even our titans of industry need to cool their heels.
If you blow this up to the national scale, it really becomes FUBAR.
Solution: a transparent process with a heart for progress
Donuts make everyone feel better.
Another thing that might make you feel better: We can waste less time and get vaccinated against the environmental consultant’s scourge.
Arthur G. Frass, Fellow at Resources for the Future, Offers One Solution for Allowing Project Delays his new newspaper† If we can identify land plots where renewable energy development is least likely to have a negative impact on the environment, we may be able to speed up the process.
Ditto if we can provide historical data and data on natural resources to the masses. Once the consultants stop guarding this information like a dragon’s treasure, the permitting process will be much smoother, with developers including the necessary facts and figures in advance.
In the solar industry, developers will choose to make eco-friendly decisions during project planning if they are equipped with the right information to do it at the right time. That, of course, means that the processes governing regulatory bodies and licensing need to be completely overhauled. We are not advocating repealing the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act. Nobody wants water or air pollution. It’s the process of getting that water or air quality that needs an overhaul.
The real inoculant, though? The right technologies.
Transect: achieving sustainability and climate goals starts now
Of regulations change all the time (thanks to recent presidential agendas) now more than ever, solar developers need a real-time, data-driven decision-making solution.
Transect is that solution. With Transect, solar developers are finally taking control of their environmental permitting process and getting due diligence reports in minutes – not weeks or months.
With federal, state, and local licensing guidelines, developers save time and money on expensive consultants. Transect’s environmental due diligence software enables faster, more intelligent deployment and, most importantly, delivers environmental reports of the same quality (or better) than consultants in a matter of minutes.
Visit transect learn more!
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