In 1979, I was hired, fresh out of graduate school with an MS degree in Systems Ecology, by the Mined Land Reclamation Division of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. I was a “Reclamation Specialist”. Over the next eight years, I advanced to the level of a “Senior Reclamation Specialist” in charge of a small staff of other similar professionals who oversaw the permitting and regulation of all of the known non-coal mines in the south half of Colorado. I reported to a chain of command that included a Division Director and a Mined Land Reclamation Board (as appointed by the Governor), which had a public meeting on a monthly basis. My duties included supervision of my staff of three specialists who reviewed reclamation permit applications from mining companies; visited mines in the field to check for compliance with their permit requirements, finding unpermitted mining operations and consulting with miners on the best way to comply with their permits and making presentations to the monthly meetings of the Board, whose members had to rule on all of our activities. I not only supervised these activities, I engaged in all of them myself. We were always busy. In short, I was an environmental regulator.

In the culture in which I worked, the “regulator’s regulator” was someone who was diligent in finding those who did not comply with the detailed regulations (whether by total non-compliance – mining without a permit – or by falling short of the standards defined by regulation and their permit) and making sure the miscreants were found, cited, fined and perhaps even closed down under a cease and desist order issued by the Board. Suffice to say that regulators who lived strictly by […]