Practitioner Spotlight--Rob Duffy
Primarily OPA, but I also work in TS, ELM, and H&S
Areas of expertise:
Air, storm water, wastewater, hazardous waste, ISO management systems, pollution prevention, and compliance auditing.
Favorite Thing about Being an OPA Practitioner:
I find comfort in the fact that at the end of each day, I have made a small contribution to assist in the protection of the environment and human health, and have done so through the practical means of finding solutions to the issues, rather than through extremism and the elimination of jobs and the livelihoods of families around the world.
What is the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
I was outsourced to one of a client's tire manufacturing plants as the plant’s environmental manager. In the course of the first six months, I also became the Health and Safety Manager and Facilities Engineer for the plant. After one year, I was outsourced to another plant three hours away and was serving that plant simultaneously. During the 2nd year, I acquired two more plants and it continued to grow until I had 9 plants in total. (Note that tire manufacturing plants are subject to nearly all of the regulatory programmatic areas.) I developed a dedicated team of professionals to serve this client while I took on the role of the Regional Environmental Manager serving as liaison between my company’s team and the client company’s Directors of Environmental and Health and Safety at their HQ in Akron, OH.
What are some of your favorite tools/resources for professional development in this practice area?
The most readily available tool for professional development within OPA is the regulations themselves and the resources available to review changes, pending legislation, etc.
What is a key ingredient for success as an OPA practitioner?
OPA projects typically have a short life cycle and to me, there are several key ingredients for success: having the ability to operate at a rapid pace, engage in multiple projects simultaneously, and deliver a quality work product and great experience to the client, all while proactively working with the client to determine their immediate and future needs.
What areas of OPA are you most interested in? Why?
I specialize in air permitting and air compliance, and this is what I am most interested in for several reasons. First, air permitting and compliance requires the use of everything you know as an engineer and scientist: mathematics, chemistry, physics, toxicology, meteorology, fluid dynamics, mechanical and electrical engineering, etc.
Second, air permitting is a strategic process most often requiring outside-the-box thinking. It starts with the development of an evolving permitting strategy and continues through the initial air emission calculations, application preparation, and finally the negotiations with the regulator to deliver the best customer experience, enabling the client to obtain an air permit that serves their best interests, all the while meeting the intent of the regulations.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I really enjoy the variety of projects that I encounter throughout the course of a year. As an OPA Practitioner, there are no two days alike. I particularly enjoy working with our young associates who are learning or honing their skills within the OPA arena.
If someone at a party asks what you do, how to you respond?
'I assist companies of all types and industries, whether it be on a consultation basis or the complete preparation of documents and reports, to meet their environmental compliance requirements under the relevant environmental regulations, whether they be on a national, state, or local level.'
What surprises people about your job?
What surprises people most about my job are the legal aspects that are addressed and the potential ramifications involved. I am most commonly asked, “Isn’t that what an environmental attorney does?”
What do you consider your biggest professional achievement so far?
I had the opportunity to support a client in a legal proceeding between themselves and the state. The initial penalties the client was facing were high enough to potentially cause the client to need to close the facility and displace all of its employees. The client relied upon my guidance regarding the best means of achieving a penalty reduction. I negotiated with the state regulators, presented the client’s terms for a consent order, and fulfilled all of the established consent order requirements. I presented the client’s case before the State Attorney General. The resultant penalty was reduced from the tens of millions to the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the facility remains in operation to this day.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up, until I had my own personal experience with medicine, which caused me to realize that being a doctor meant being around sick people every day.
What was your first job?
My first job was actually an unpaid job on my family’s farm bailing hay. My first paying job was bagging groceries on an Air Force Base for tips when I was 14 years old. It was the best paying job I have ever had, averaging over $100/hour (unfortunately, it was limited to 6 hours a week)!
If you had one month off, where would you go or what would you do?
I would remodel my kitchen and bathrooms.
Is there something unique that people might not know about you?
I have a couple of things people may not know about me. The first is hobby-related: I have a commercial-scale woodworking shop in my garage and I love to build cabinetry and furniture. The second is that I have been a resident engineer on highway construction and storm sewer construction projects for the DOT, which included design work, materials testing, and contractor oversight.
What is on the top of your bucket list?
I would like to visit the seven wonders of the world.
If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
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