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The Government Shut Down - Is it Good or Bad? One Environmental Professional's Opinion

October 1, 2013, the first day of the 2014 fiscal year, activity at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA’s) has come to  a screeching halt.  The first question to ask is – is this a good thing or a bad one? And, the answer is – it depends. It depends upon your point of view. According to postings on news sites only 7% of EPA’s workforce has been deemed essential, and it is really unclear as to what the tasks being performed by those individuals really are.  But, what we do know is this:
1) No federal environmental air permits are going to proceed through EPA.  This of course could be bad, as it will probably delay a number of projects.
2) Comment periods on the proposed rules such as the one related to coal fired power plants will be delayed.  This can be good as it will allow more time to address concerns in the proposed rule. But, may be perceived as bad as it will delay implementation of the new rules.
3) Delay of the regulatory calendar – which can be good or bad.  Good from the perspective that the regulated community may have an opportunity to catch their collective breath while implementing the current regulations. Bad from the perspective that some of these have been in the wings for a while and the uncertainty has a tendency to hamper you.
It is commonly said that uncertainty may be our biggest hindrance to overall improvement.  While nothing is100% certain, as the level of uncertainty increases, the paralysis to implement new technology, new innovations, and improvements also increases.  Thus, while the EPA is shut down, the “mice don’t play” as many would expect, the mice freeze in place.  This freeze while it may provide temporary relief, may also be a harbinger of doom. 
As environmental professionals, we can’t let the ice settle.  We need to use this time to plan and evaluate potential options.  We can look at those scenarios that we have been discussing.  We can look at ways to improve current compliance.  We can refine our processes.  We can clear some of that clutter that has been accumulating.  Take this time to examine your current state of regulation, and develop your plan –it will allow you to prepare for the potentials that are around the corner rather than react to them because you haven’t had the time for thoughtful analysis.

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