Mission Monday: Environmental Regulatory Engagement

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TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – It’s Mission Monday. Lauren Dempsey is the water, natural and cultural resources regulatory media expert with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Environmental Directorate’s Legislative and Regulatory Engagement Division West Branch here.

Dempsey reviews proposed state environmental legislation and regulations -- specifically related to water, natural resources and cultural resources -- and assesses them for Department of the Air Force impacts that may benefit from outreach and engagement.  She also works with the DAF regional environmental coordinator for the relevant state, the appropriate installation support sections, and legal and other military services to develop and implement an engagement strategy that will benefit the DAF and Department of Defense.

We asked Dempsey to tell us a little about her job and her work at AFCEC.

What do you love about your job? 
The analysis, problem solving and teamwork involved and the satisfaction felt when we successfully negotiate solutions that protect the military mission while also protecting the environmental resources on which our mission depends.

When it comes to your job, what keeps you motivated? 
Environmental laws and state environmental priorities are constantly changing, which keeps things interesting and keeps me engaged and motivated.  Also, simply that I enjoy the work.

Why are you and your team important to the Air Force enterprise/your customers?  
We’re on the front lines of mitigating mission impacts from new environmental laws and regulations.  We are uniquely positioned to negotiate changes to laws and regulations before they are finalized and adopted.  The military mission depends on environmental resources like air and water, so it’s about finding the balance of protecting those essential resources but also ensuring the laws proposed for their protection don’t have an adverse impact on the military mission, particularly not one that is disproportionate to the environmental benefit.

Describe a project or event you and your team worked on recently that gave you a great sense of accomplishment:  
The state of Colorado tried to use its certification authority to impose significant additional requirements to a discharge permit reissuance for nine FE Warren AFB missile launch facilities in the state.  The proposed additions were extensive and unreasonable, increasing annual costs by over half a million dollars, requiring sampling for PFAS despite the lack of historic PFAS presence at these facilities and creating a significant manpower burden for both environmental staff and the two required Air Force security escorts to spend two days per week on compliance sampling.  Developing comments to educate and persuade the state to work with us on a reasonable compromise was a team effort working closely with the installation, their installation support section, DAF attorneys, the DAF PFAS team, the DOD Clean Water Act Services Steering Committee and the DOD Regional Environmental Coordinator team.  The resulting comment letter signed out by our DAF REC persuaded the state to stand down entirely on all of its proposed revisions and we have observed that it also influenced their certification of other DAF discharge permits to our favor.  I’m very proud of our team and seeing that effort have both immediate and follow-on benefits to the military mission.

Tell us how what you do fits in with AFIMSC’s strategic priorities.
I strive to always seek and negotiate solutions with our states that maximize protection of our essential environmental resources while also minimizing any adverse impacts on our military mission.  This helps to increase our military readiness by protecting the natural resources our military relies on, in my case particularly our water resources which are operationally essential, and by minimizing the environmental compliance burden on personnel and financial resources.

Is there anything else you’d like to add which might help people understand the importance of what you do for the Air Force?  
I think most people can understand that when we reduce the financial and personnel burdens that is helpful and important, but our consideration for also protecting environmental resources to support the mission can be more difficult to understand.  I sometimes challenge people to imagine our DAF operations without clean drinking water for Airmen or Guardians, without an adequate water supply for firefighting, cleaning, maintenance and other operations.  It is easy to take our water resources for granted and forget how essential they are.