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Environmental Permitting Exposed

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As the inimitable Ray Arnold in Jurassic Park said, “hold onto your butts.” It’s about to get testy up in here.
Why? Because we’re about to blow the top off this mess. Seriously, people, we’re dealing with a mounting climate crisis and untold tracts of land under development, and we can’t address either due to an old, busted, legislatively constipated system.

No, we’re not talking about Daylight Savings Time. Although while we’re on the subject …

Kidding. We’re talking about the environmental permitting process. Simply put, it’s whack. And it’s time somebody did something about it.

Looks like we’re going to have to pick up that baton. Be the change you want to be and all that. Let’s get started.

Environmental Permitting 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 back in the 70s, environmental consultants have been the gatekeepers for all land development. They have the monopoly on controlling the timeframe, pricing, and resources for commercial developers, who have no choice but to go through their environmental due diligence process to obtain environmental permits for their land use projects.

If you just fell asleep, you’ve likely never experienced the hassle that is trying to get your environmental permits. If you just had a minor coronary, chances are this sounds all too familiar.

The Problem: Antiquated System Run by Autocratic "Consultants"

Let’s be honest. The definition of “consultant” implies that you get to, like, have a say here. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. To wit:

  • Your consultant is not seeking your input. They will do it how they will do it, and you can cordially kiss off until they’re done.
  • So, when will they be done? Whenever they feel like it! They’re not interested in speeding up the process or meeting your timelines.
  • Using a consultant is typically a requirement. You cannot get the job done anywhere else. It’s cute you thought you could, though!

Yeah. It’s like that.

Since the institution of these laws 50 years ago, any developer who wants to … ya know, develop … has had to put up with this. The number of ulcers alone is unimaginable, but perhaps more saliently today, this process is taking a real toll on the environment. Suppose a developer doesn't know that they need a specific environmental permit, or it’s too challenging to get that information. In that case, it comes at the expense of species, air quality, water resources, and ultimately, public health.

Mother Earth herself is getting an ulcer.

Environmental compliance should not be this complicated.

Environmental Consultants

Our Climate Crisis is Having a Climate Crisis

How is anyone supposed to get anything done in a bureaucratic climate such as this?

Good question, sad answer: we’re not getting anything done. Or at least not enough. Simply put, the status quo of consulting can no longer keep up with the development requirements of this century. With significant technological innovations in parallel disciplines like fintech, proptech, and construction tech, land development's environmental compliance line item will soon be left holding the proverbial hot potato. We can expect:

  • Delays and costs to sabotage project viability
  • Sidestepping and rule-bending where environmental permit information is unavailable, unreliable, or arrives too late
  • Energy transition goals to go unmet
  • The line for environmental permit application is currently growing longer and longer, eventually wrapping around the Earth eight times like some grade-school science fact
If the United States truly plans to pivot toward renewable energy and meet the stated milestones for fossil fuel energy independence, this archaic permit application process has got to go.

Get the eBook that exposes the broken system

What’s the Holdup? What Environmental Permitting Consultants Don’t Want You to Know

Manual, in-person, environmental consulting fieldwork occurs behind a veil of secrecy. It does not scale. And it needs to be exposed for what it is – a scam.

Environmental permitting consultants bill by the hour. There is zero visibility into what they do to justify their exorbitant fees and lengthy timeframes. Clients only find out how the consultants spent their time when they get the (often questionable) final written environmental review.

It’s not just your Average Joe who’s affected, either. Even SpaceX had to reschedule a launch due to an environmental assessment in the summer of 2021. And you know when it happens to Elon Musk, something’s broken. This medieval process means even our titans of industry must cool their heels.

When you blow this up to the national scale, things get really FUBAR.


Biden’s Green Infrastructure Goals on the Ropes

Biden’s green infrastructure plan calls for 800+ GW of new generation capacity, which will require an amount of land roughly equivalent to the size of South Dakota.

One of the biggest obstacles to meeting Biden’s goal is the burden of the environmental permitting process. Not because the regulations themselves are even the problem, environmental protection is essential, but rather because the process is so darn inefficient.

“Major projects (such as those on the scale President Biden is advocating) must produce environmental impact statements, which can take four years on average, and in some cases as long as decades,” explains the Brookings Institute. Moreover, “Permitting represents a barrier to deploying renewable energy even at the smaller scales we’ve already attempted.”

All in all, they say, “permitting projects of this magnitude by 2035 will be highly improbable if hundreds of massive projects have to plod through the current permitting system.”

Let’s pause for a donut break. This is just getting depressing.

Environmental Consulting

Solution: A Transparent Process with a Heart of Progress

Donuts make everyone feel better.

Something else that might make you feel better: we can waste less time and inoculate ourselves against the environmental consultant plague.

Arthur G. Frass, Fellow at Resources for the Future, offers one solution for project permitting delays in his new paper. If we can identify land parcels where renewable energy development is least likely to impact the environment negatively, we might be able to speed up the process.

Ditto if we can provide historic and natural resource data to the masses. Once the consultants no longer guard this info like a dragon’s hoard, the permitting process will go much more smoothly, with developers incorporating necessary facts and figures upfront.

In real estate, developers will choose to make environmentally favorable decisions during project planning if they are equipped with the correct information to do so at the right time. That means, of course, that there needs to be a complete overhaul of the processes that govern regulatory agencies and permitting. We aren't advocating that we dismantle the clean water act or the clean air act. Nobody wants water or air pollution. It is the process of getting that water or air quality permitting that needs an overhaul.

The real inoculant, though? The right technologies.


Transect: Meeting Sustainability and Climate Goals Starts Now

With regulation changing all the time (thanks to recent presidential agendas), developers need a real-time, data-driven, decision-making solution now more than ever.

Transect is that solution. With Transect, developers finally take control of their environmental permitting process and get due diligence reports in minutes - not weeks or months.

With federal, state, and local permitting guidance, developers save time and money on expensive consultants. The Transect environmental due diligence software allows for faster, more intelligent siting and, most importantly, provides environmental reports of the same quality (or better) than consultants offer in a matter of minutes.
Because it’s just that good.

In short, Transect's Envirotech solution can directly contribute to U.S. sustainability and climate goals. If you want to learn more about why government agencies such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority are using Transect to make smarter planning decisions and decrease permitting delays, download our free report right now.

Read more about the broken environmental permitting system in our new eBook below!

Get the eBook that exposes the broken system

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