Environmental risk and compliance managers are often tasked with educating a wide range of stakeholders on complex issues. They need buy-in to secure budgets and other nonfinancial resources to protect the interests of their organizations and build long term resiliency. This is not an easy endeavor in a time of significant environmental threats and a constantly changing regulatory landscape.
In today’s blog, Dr. David Hargis, President & CEO of Hargis + Associates, shares his unique perspective on trending environmental issues and how you can expect these issues to impact your organization.
What are the major issues that are critical for environmental compliance and risk managers to address in strategic planning over the next 1-3 years?
The shifting political landscape and its impact on compliance and monitoring enforcement presents the greatest risk in the coming years. Changing attitudes toward the sciences, and the role of science in defining environmental problems and solutions, will create and support less ideal solutions, which will in turn increase the risks of misapplied solutions, and failed remedies.
Groundwater resource assessment and allocation is an extremely complex issue. What advice do you have for organizations in water-stressed states to build resiliency in this time of drought?
Foresight and planning have always been key to surviving drought. Once you are thirsty, it is already too late. You build resiliency into your water supply by spreading out your demand among various sources. Identify alternative sources: groundwater, surface water, wastewater treatment and recycling, desalination, etc. Groundwater in coastal areas of California, on the dry West Texas plains, and many other areas is not suitable for use and often discourages water supply for public use, or agriculture. But combine these resources with treatment of various kinds, and it can be a game changer. It is interesting to see the costs of treatment in some circumstances become more affordable as potable supplies dry up, and demand for water continues to increase.
Why is water quality becoming a more critical issue?
The quality of water becomes more of an issue as supply is squeezed, and as our analytical abilities enable us to identify solutes that were once invisible to us. Our ability to analyze for solutes in water has exceeded our ability to identify sources and predict pathways. As supplies become more limited in quantity, and less available logistically, our sensitivity to what is in our water supply, and how it might affect us as consumers, becomes of greater interest.
In terms of environmental regulation and litigation, what are trends are you seeing?
Regulation and litigation? I see no letup in either litigation or regulation. Although Covid has paused or slowed the enthusiasm for enforcement and litigation, as conditions adjust to a new “normal” we should see those activities return to some reasonable level of intensity. The ability to negotiate with and lead regulators and litigants to sound interpretations and science-based conclusions will continue to be a much sought after skill set.
Where do you expect to see movement on new regulations this year?
The two principle drivers of regulation have been water quality and water supply. Drought conditions exacerbate both. This will most likely continue to be the focus of regulations.
How can companies protect themselves (mitigate their risk) against environmental litigation?
Vigilance, understanding, and planning ahead are the keys to mitigating the risk of environmental litigation for most clients. This boils down to awareness and addressing at least the basics of the science and engineering involved. The willingness to provide resources for maintaining awareness, and communicating that to management is fundamental to maintaining the operational aspects of a company. Failure to invest in these activities can be very costly.
What’s the single most important issue for environmental managers to follow this year?
Education and awareness are the most important issues for environmental managers to face in any year. Being aware of what is going on with your environment, knowing what the hot buttons are for the regulators, and having the budgets and human resources to investigate and evaluate potential problems before they are critical.
Environmental Managers struggle to tackle complex liabilities with limited resources– not enough time in the day, scientists on staff, or money in the budget. Hargis helps environmental managers keep up with the changing environmental regulatory landscape and complex environmental remediation issues so they can balance cost, risk, and remediation approach to mitigate long-term environmental liabilities. Check out our free online resources or for the most convenience, subscribe to our monthly newsletter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David R. Hargis, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Dr. Hargis earned his PhD. in Hydrogeology and Water Resources from the University of Arizona. Consulting since 1972, he has guided Hargis + Associates since its inception in 1979. A recognized expert in groundwater flow and solute transport, he has amassed considerable experience in large scale multi-source groundwater contamination sites from Ohio to Hawaii.