Letters to the Editor

Change how environmental regulations are made

I have a theory about environmental regulations. The reason they just keep getting more costly and expansive is because they are largely, if not completely, designed by people who derive their livelihood from the implementation of said rules. These individuals are essentially tasked with the job of making up the regulations that keep themselves employed.

My experience with this syndrome derives from 25 years as an environmental consultant. When I attended discussions at the Department of Ecology to determine what wetland and stream buffers should be, everybody sitting at the table had some skin in the game. That included not just private consultants who get paid to produce the paperwork, but government regulators who get paid to process it and college professors who get paid to pump out students who can do both.

What was missing at the table were private landowners, lay people and elected officials. These individuals only get their input through the public comment process, but by the time this happens the ideas are already etched in stone, not sketched in chalk, and it is impossible to make significant changes.

Now, I fully support environmental regulation. Indeed, wetland/stream buffers are absolutely necessary to protect our water from land use actions. It’s just the degree to which these regulations are enforced upon private landowners that I question. There are cheaper and easier ways to get things done, but if the rules are only made by those who get paid to implement them, costs and complexity will continually rise.