When are properties in environments files loaded?

I have a code snippet at the beginning of my recipe that checks to make sure that certain attributes are set, it looks like this:

if !node['consul']['dns'].has_key?("nameserver1")
	raise "Please set a value for nameserver1"

but when I run chef-client, it returns:

undefined method `has_key?' for nil:NilClass
    1>> if !node['consul']['dns'].has_key?("nameserver1")
    2:  	raise "Please set a value for nameserver1"
    3:  end

Which looks to me to mean that either the consul attribute does not exist, or the dns attribute does not exist inside of it.

However, my holding.json file contains this:

    "consul": {
      "dns": {
        "nameserver1": "IPADDR1",
        "nameserver2": "IPADDR1",
        "nameserver3": "IPADDR1",
        "nameserver4": "IPADDR1"

and I’ve confirmed the node is in that environment by checking inside of knife node edit:

"chef_environment": "holding"

Why might it not be picking up those attributes?? In holding.json, those attributes are located in the default attributes section.