One of the challenges in addressing environmental problems is staying clear of the litigation trap. Adversaries too easily find themselves in court, years slipping away, arguments getting in the way of remedies.

A prime example is the battle over repairing the combined sewer system in Akron, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency jousting with the city, the tangle aggravated by the contentiousness of federal Judge John Adams. One sticking point has been the time permitted for the clean up, the parties agreeing to 15 years, the judge favoring 10 years.

Put aside that a reasonable consent decree has been sitting on the judge’s desk for two years. Worth bearing in mind is the perspective of 2040, 2045 and beyond. By then, if the job is completed, most of us will not recall whether the deadline was 2022, 2027 or 2030. The important point will be that the improvements have been made, adding to the quality of life of the region.

In that way, it is encouraging to see the EPA opening the door to a more flexible approach, among other things, taking into account the burdensome cost. It represents a welcome alternative to such time-consuming litigation.