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A Day in the Life of an Environmental Consultant

In the world of environmental planning ,the goal is to provide an unbiased, facts based, legally compliant feedback that may dictate the future of a project. What kinds of projects are we talking about though?

Some examples of typical projects that may require an environmental planning document of some kind would include developing property, tearing things down, creating a new kind of use for a property, or even installing new billboards near to the freeway. Many situations call for an analysis of environmental impacts.

In this article I will discuss the different features of an environmental impact report and how to learn more about the data that can support findings in each section.

First of all, an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is one kind of document among many that are submitted to the government that regulates development and the environment around you. Other kinds of documents that are often written more frequently are called Mitigated Negative Declarations (MNDs), Categorical Exemptions (CEs), and Initial Studies (IS). I won't bore you with the details of how or why they are different right now, but I will talk about the contents.

In general, these documents do their best to analyze many of the problems that can arise from developing a new property. In fact, as of 2019, there are more than 20 sections of an EIR or MND. These sections include the following:

  1. Cover, Table Of Contents (basically this list), and Acronym List

  2. Executive Summary

  3. Introduction

  4. Environmental Setting

  5. Project Description

  6. Environmental Analysis

  7. Aesthetics

  8. Agriculture and Forestry Resources

  9. Air Quality

  10. Biological Resources

  11. Cultural Resources

  12. Geology and Soils

  13. Greenhouse gas Emissions

  14. Hazards and Hazardous Materials

  15. Hydrology and Water Quality

  16. Land use and Planning

  17. Mineral Resources

  18. Noise

  19. Population and Housing

  20. Public Services

  21. Recreation

  22. Transportation and Traffic

  23. Utilities and Service Systems

  24. Significant Unavoidable Adverse Impacts

  25. Alternatives to the Proposed Project

  26. Impacts Found not to be Significant

  27. Significant Irreversible Changes due to the Proposed Project

  28. Growth-inducing Impacts of the Proposed Project

  29. Organizations and Persons Consulted

  30. Qualifications of Persons Preparing eir

  31. Bibliography


  1. Notice Of Preparation and Initial Study

  2. Comment Letters

  3. General Plan Goals and Policies

  4. Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Emission Modeling Data

  5. General Biological Resource Information

  6. Cultural Resource Study

  7. Safety Analysis

  8. Noise Monitoring and Modeling Data

  9. Traffic Study

In terms of how these reports are prepared. The image below essentially describes the process that must be followed in order to create one of these reports.

What's funny, is that the first box in the image above creates a problem for most people. How do you define what a project is? Well, there is a long answer and a short answer. Again, I'll give you the short answer so that you at least have an idea of what I'm talking about.

A "Project" is the “whole of an action” subject to a public agency’s discretionary approval or funding , with the potential for resulting in either: A direct physical change in the environment or A reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment.

Now what this basically means is that any time you want to do something that may have an effect on the environment or the infrastructure around you, then it may need to go through this process.

Honestly, most of the time this really means that you perform a few studies on the property and indicate that there will be a "less than significant impact" on the environment and you can go ahead and build what you were trying to build. The more complex the project, the more complex the document.

Now who and what says that these documents even need to be produced? Well it depends on where you are... but the easiest way to say it is "the government does". Frankly its a great thing that they require it, because, without them, traffic would be terrible, noises would not be regulated like they are, and the environment would be even more messed up than it already is. There are a number of historical examples of why environmental planning is needed. Such as the pollution of Lake Washington (read more here), or the cuyahoga river that caught fire because of pollution multiple times (read more here).

Environmental planning shows that people can work together to create a better future for us all. With it, we can position ourselves for a future of successful investments, a clean environment, and sustainabiliy!

Join me in learning more about this wonderful field of scientific understanding! Check out my other blog articles here.

Thanks for reading.

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