Susan Alford - President of Berg Oliver Associates, Inc.
The first question most folks ask about environmental studies in the due diligence period of a project is...WHY do I need to?
To address WHY is simple: compliance with State and Federal Law. President Nixon signed the Environmental Policy Act of 1969 on January 1, 1970. Subsequently, federal and state regulations to protect natural resources such as wetlands, waters, and threatened species, to protect cultural resources, and to protect human health from hazardous material exposure were enacted. I won’t bore you with all of the acronyms, chapter, verse or title of each Code of Federal Regulations or Texas Administrative Code.
It is often seen as an inconvenience or an unwarranted expense to a project. Performing a due diligence level study is a way to manage risk. Every project is developed around discovering fatal flaws. This allows for sound engineering, sound financials, and a management of risk. Yes, sometimes these studies find stuff that you have to deal with, but so do drainage studies. One would never build a subdivision or road without understanding and solving the drainage. Far better to know the facts and get things addressed on the front end than to get surprised with a costly “environmental repair” that delays product delivery.
For example, your financial institution will require at a minimum a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment done to ASTM 1527-2013 standards. Please make sure it follows the standard. You do get what you pay for with these things and the worst thing you can have is a bad Phase I ESA. We have seen too many cases where a badly performed Phase I had missed a recognized environmental condition. Finding out that an area requires testing prior to construction after a development loan had been granted causes delays and ulcers.
Wetlands and Waters are another resource people like to think they don’t have. This is the Gulf Coast: wetlands are numerous, scattered, and always where you don’t want them. Just because they are present is not the end of a project, they do create a challenge to overcome that takes planning, timing, creativity, and yes, a little money. Often a solution can have dual purposes so your project schedule and budget remains intact. The same goes for endangered species.
Cultural resources are often overlooked as a key component to a due diligence review. Compliance with Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act is triggered by the need for a federal permit, such as your NOI filed with TCEQ. Don’t take it lightly. Most of the time there are no further actions beyond a simple record review for compliance. You don’t want to be the guy that just blew through an unmarked burial site or that just dozed a historic structure without Historical Commission concurrence. The key with Cultural resources is to document it.
So, what should be your Environmental Due Diligence Checklist?
- Phase I ESA 1527-2013
- Wetlands Determination
- Endangered Species
- Cultural Resources
At a minimum, these should be performed. If you are dealing with a federal or state funded project, you have more wonderful topics to review.
Lastly, hire consultants that tell you the truthful facts and find solutions for all these things. There is always someone that will tell you what you want to hear. You need the facts and sound solutions to protect your project, your liability, and your $$$$.
Berg Oliver Associates, Inc. is a full service environmental science firm, established in 1990, with proven experience devoted entirely to the field of Environmental Consulting Services. Click here to view their website.