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Budget Reductions and The Impact on Environmental Permitting

www.clementi-ec.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/buildingonbeach-3.jpgAs an environmental consultant, I have been involved in environmental permitting in the southeastern United States for 32 years.  Over the years we have been through several downturns in the economy and changes in state and federal administrations.  In all of these situations, I have heard the doomsday predictions for the future state of the environment.  There has never been a significiant lessening of environmental regulations during rough economic times.  You will hear stories about how it will be much easier to get a permit during this recession and that may not necessarily be true for you. What should you expect in these times?  There may be a reduction in the number of staff at the agencies but there is also a significant reduction on the number of projects to review. The agency staff are not as busy and you might see a more in depth review of your project that you might have in the past.

What should you expect from your consultants? You should expect them to ask you to convince them that your project is justifiable.  Do not skip any steps in the environmental planning of your project.  You cannot take back a poorly developed plan once it is on the table.  Your consultants should be asking you the questions the agency staff will ask. Do not take these questions from your consultants as “Who’s side are they on”.     You should be hiring a consultant who has been there and done that and can give you an educated forecast.  Pre-application meetings at all agencies including the utility departments should always be planned no matter how confident everyone feels about the design of the project.

You cannot be denied reasonable use of your property.  However there is no good definition of  “reasonable use”.  Economic justification for wetland impacts was historically difficult to prove.  However, we are now experiencing agency staff being more receptive to an economic justification for wetland impacts.  There are unique circumstances that have occurred during the shifts in this economy.  Distressed parcels are being acquired but it is difficult to complete all the due diligence as access if frequently being denied.   Others are having to continue to develop their land and taking a loss.  An experienced professional can help navigate the system and help you get the appropriate permits.