Building Sustainable Systems Brick by Brick: A Comparative Look at Integrated Permitting in the UK and the Potential for Sustainable Approaches in the United States

Vol. 26 No. 3

Ms. Comer is a senior attorney in the Office of Policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and one of several principal authors of the report, An In-depth Look at the United Kingdom Integrated Permitting System, referenced in this article. The findings and conclusions expressed in this article represent the author’s personal opinion and do not necessarily reflect past, current, or anticipated EPA policy.

This article is inspired by the growing interest in sustainability in environmental practice and policy and provides a platform for discussing the potential application of sustainable approaches in the United States. Recognizing that the U.S. national regulatory structure relies on media-specific statutory mandates rather than integrated approaches and policies featured overseas, this paper provides an overview of the United Kingdom’s (UK) implementation of the European Union (EU) mandated integrated regulatory scheme and identifies several key differences between the UK and U.S. permitting systems. Following that comparison, this article offers examples of multimedia experiments conducted in the United States and explores policy proposals calling for sustainable outcomes in the country. Lastly, the article introduces emerging tools, practices, and concepts (short of wholesale reform) that can move the United States in the direction of sustainable systems for environmental management. Importantly, this article does not attempt to define the term sustainability—other sources can be referred to for that definition. For instance, President Obama’s Executive Order 13,514 defines sustainability as “to create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.” Exec. Order No.13,514 (Oct. 5, 2009).

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