Ehstoday 1196 Environment

Staying Ahead of Environmental Rules and Regulations

March 10, 2018
Avoiding information overload in order to stay in compliance can be difficult without technology.

Ever since the regulatory explosion in the late 80s and 90s, savvy EHS executives and lawyers have known that staying ahead of rapidly evolving environmental policy is critical to managing risk and providing sound, reliable recommendations.

They also know that keeping up on key issues and topics surrounding climate change, air pollution, water, chemicals, waste and energy with a focus on legal and regulatory issues is a massive endeavor.

Adding to an already cumbersome task, since President Donald Trump took office, dozens of environmental rules have been changed, causing confusion and uncertainly. Whether overturned, rolled back or in limbo, at the end of the day, for EHS executives and lawyers, this simply means more rules and regulations they need to stay abreast of, adding to an already complex regulatory environment.

For some companies, the first step to stay on top of environmental policy is to go directly to primary sources, such as state and federal websites, or trade association websites. This approach helps companies get a baseline understanding of regulations currently in effect and may be enough for some companies. However, for companies that are looking to get in front of regulations, with a diverse and expansive product line, or that do business internationally or in many states, a different approach is needed.

As an example, let’s consider the biggest issue currently facing car manufacturers today: vehicle greenhouse gas limits for 2022-2025. The EPA is currently nearing an April deadline to set motor vehicle greenhouse gas limits for 2022-2025.

Last year, the Trump presidency reversed a decision by the EPA under the Obama administration that mirrored the stringent standards set by California via the state’s Clean Air Act waiver. As of January 2018, a dozen states have adopted California’s limits.

If the EPA decides to lower limits, subsequently alienating California and its allies in the process, this could spell disaster for automakers. The result would be the end of the uniform national program, forcing automakers to comply with varying state-mandated regulations. Such an event would impact every part of a manufacturer’s business, from marketing, to sales, to production, and, of course, environmental compliance.

The California Clean Air Act story is consistent with what we have observed about environmental policies; some states have their own provisions on certain regulatory law; and some states conform to federal mandates, and some don’t. In other words, inconsistency is the norm, resulting in a patchwork of regulatory laws at the state and federal level that EHS executives must monitor. And this is just one of the hundreds or even thousands of regulations that car manufacturers must follow. 

Naturally, the questions at hand then become what is the most effective way to transform massive amounts of state and federal regulations into digestible, reliable and usable information? Is it even possible to stay ahead of the massive number of legislative and regulatory developments, court and administrative decisions, compliance news, government policies, and international standards?

Today, technology seems like the logical answer. Artificial intelligence, robotic assistants, and time saving tools including customizable alerts, and links to primary resource documents that are delivered right into your inbox are excellent at reducing the sheer volume of data readily available. However, technology is only part of the equation.

Technology alone falls short in delivering the depth and breadth of data, or the analysis required for an EHS executive to effectively do their job. To do this, human intelligence must be added to the equation. By melding the best technologies available, with the best intelligence available, EHS executives can determine: 

  1. Who the regulation impacts;
  2. What the regulation entails;
  3. When the regulation is coming;
  4. What regions will be impacted by the regulation;
  5. Why the regulation is being implemented
  6. And finally, how compliance be achieved.

Beyond the use of cutting edge technology, leading firms and companies rely on human intelligence to help them analyze the overwhelming amount of data that comes across their desks.

This powerful combination of advanced technology, and intelligence from trusted advisors, has helped progressive companies and law firms create an environmental research best practice that is comprehensive, yet not too time consuming.

The result is less time spent on monotonous research, more time in the field, more comprehensive agency and sustainability reports, and better environmental policy decisions.

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