At some point when evaluating environmental impacts of activities the question of 'operational controls' and their absences arises. It seems to me, whether or not mistakenly, that we might as well just evaluate impacts given whatever operational controls we commonly place on activities from the get-go and begin our inquiry from that base.
If we consider the impacts of, say, a prescribed burn absent operational controls we are left wondering what indeed 'prescribed burn' is meant to mean. Would we just wander aimlessly (or objectively) and throw matches or aim drip-torches? Similarly for other activities. So we need to define more closely what we are about in any with/without looks at operational controls. Perhaps we are exploring places and cases where opertaional controls might fail, and using that to help guide us in sorting out 'significance.'
In exploring various ways in which operational controls may fail we may gain information on bettering controls and also on 'significance of environmental aspects.'
And if we begin, as have some, to explore just what sets of operational controls we might think of as 'being relaxed' when we first explore impacts, I suspect that we will find ourselves on the same slippery-slope that we found ourselves on when we played with benchmarks and sensitivity analysis in the first round of forest planning.
In forest planning, as some will remember, we were tasked with exploring certain 'benchmarks' prior to developing forest plan alternatives. Our directives suggested that we would gain information (I'll have to check what type, etc when I get in the office) if we relaxed certain constraints in our models. Those of us who looked closely at this problem realized that the order of relaxation of the constraints proved important as to the nature of the information developed. In practice the so-called sensitivity analysis proved to be quite arbitrary and arguably capricious. We were all very glad to see that type nonsense die a quiet death.
I fear that we may be on another fools' quest here. But maybe I just don't understand what we are attempting and why, when we look at impacts sans 'operational controls.' I'm open for suggestions and enlightenment from whatever source. (And I'll try to edit this to make more sense of my arguments as I get a clearer picture of what we are attempting. In the meantime I thought I'd get this matter out in the open and ask for your help.).
And as we explore this, should we do so, I would also like to determine whether the ISO 14001 or other ISO materials are leading us into this with/without wonderland. If not, then how did we get the notion that it makes sense—if in fact we are doing it at all.
Perhaps we are doing nothing of this sort. Perhaps I had one too many beers when in Richfield earlier this week (and in our training sessions in Ogden before that) and this really isn't happening at all. If the latter, I'll gleefully delete this post and chalk it all up to delusion.