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  • 08 Jul 2024 11:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Dawn Santoianni, Principal Consultant; Heather Good, Associate, Hydrogeologist; and Sarah Sieloff, Technical Expert - Haley & Aldrich

    How are you setting your strategy? 

    As environmental consultants, we hear questions from many clients about environmental justice (EJ). They’re wondering what the current focus on EJ means for them, whether that focus will continue, and how to create an effective and actionable EJ strategy. 

    EJ might seem like a new concept, but the term has been around for several decades. In recent years, EJ has risen in prominence at both the state and federal levels. Offices of Environmental Justice have formed within multiple agencies, laws have been passed, policies have changed, and grant guidelines have shifted. With over four decades of combined experience tracking environmental trends and forging constructive stakeholder relationships, we can confidently say that the current policy focus on EJ will not fade.  

    There are multiple benefits to developing an EJ strategy. Developers who don’t pay attention to the evolving EJ landscape may face permitting, enforcement, reputational, and relationship risks. And on the flip side, a focus on EJ doesn’t have to be a protective maneuver — it can also support your firm’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, bolster stakeholder relationships, and make meaningful improvements in communities.   

    With the current and anticipated ongoing focus on EJ, understanding how you can position your organization is more important than ever. 

    Staying current in an evolving landscape

    In practice, EJ will look different for different communities, sites, and development plans. For example, some will focus on risk mitigation or pollution prevention. Others will need to make improvements that address the underlying factors contributing to a community’s EJ concerns — lack of green space, traffic generated by construction or the completed devleopment, or legacy contamination issues.

    A key component of determining how your company might engage with EJ is understanding which communities have EJ concerns. EJ concerns in a community are typically characterized by harms and risks. Some communities are disproportionately affected by historical pollution burdens, which, when combined with socioeconomic stressors such as poverty, linguistic isolation, and lower levels of education, can result in more adverse health and economic impacts. However, there is no single definition of EJ, which is evident in the large number and variety of EJ screening tools that are available. Tools like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s EJScreen or the federal government’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool show how environmental and socioeconomic factors intersect across geographies. While these tools can provide data and perspective on community concerns, they don’t reveal everything, such as public sentiment or local data. Nor do these screening tools recommend specific actions or tactics. That’s where an EJ strategy comes in — it provides a roadmap for addressing EJ concerns. 

     Environmental Justice Mapping/Screening Tools for the BCONE geography

    It’s challenging to keep up with and interpret state and federal regulatory, permitting, and funding actions on EJ. This is yet another reason companies can benefit from a proactive — not reactive — EJ strategy.  

    Working with public sector partners 

    With the rising prominence of EJ at the state and federal levels, there is an increased focus on EJ in the public sector. By preparing an EJ strategy, you can position yourself to work more productively with public sector partners.   

    Many federal grants now require applicants to demonstrate how EJ has shaped their application and will inform future projects. This is especially key as legislation like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act continue to swell agency coffers with grant funding. There are also impacts at the state level, including funding and permitting decisions. As of early 2023, more than 20 states had enacted EJ policies that define EJ or overburdened communities; stood up dedicated EJ task forces, offices, and commissions; established screening tools, impact reports, and scorecards; and mandated community involvement in environmental and land-use decision-making.  

    Developing an EJ strategy speaks volumes, not only about your firm’s commitment to this issue but also about your knowledge of the wider policy and regulatory landscape. A programmatic or enterprise-level EJ strategy can also help support broader company ESG goals, build constructive relationships with the communities you serve, and maintain brand reputation with business partners, investors, employees, and other stakeholders. 

    Components of an effective EJ strategy

    Your EJ strategy will be unique to your organizational and situational needs, but there are some common approaches and tools that we use when developing an EJ strategy. 

    Using EJ screening tools to understand local context 

     How we can think of EJ

    • Demonstrating care for our communities
    • Understanding community concerns relating to historical environmental liabilities and cumulative impacts
    • Informing mitigation and remediation solutions, getting community buy-in
    • Considerations for permitting new facilities, including renewables
    • Developing robust community engagement plans
    • Enhancing stakeholder relationships and reputation
    • Mitigating risk across our portfolio

    The federal government and many states have developed publicly available EJ or equity screening tools that provide access to environmental, demographic, and socioeconomic data. These tools can help companies better understand the communities in which they operate and potential EJ risks.   

    While EJ screening tools can be a helpful starting point, they have several limitations and challenges. Each tool uses different datasets, and some require an experienced user to navigate them. They provide descriptive results but cannot be the only source of information — local data and public sentiment are also important. To fully understand their EJ risks, companies should conduct site-specific assessments. These assessments typically consider results from screening tools but supplement that information with site-specific factors such as current operations, potential community risks, and historical impacts.   

    Improving internal alignment 

    For companies just beginning to develop an EJ strategy, internal education is often an important first step. For example, we recently began helping a client develop its plan to address EJ concerns at sites across the country. In discussions with stakeholders, we learned that workers at those sites didn’t have a unified understanding of what EJ entails or why it matters to their work. We developed training materials and a workshop to facilitate alignment, which in turn has helped the company align goals and internal communications.

    Developing a communications strategy  

    Sustained, responsive communication with community stakeholders and regulators is essential to EJ strategy. Companies could consider how they will prepare for tough questions about their own EJ track records, as well as about environmental and health issues not related to their operations: Communities will often bring all their concerns to the table, and companies need to know how to field questions on those concerns to foster good relationships and build trust. 

    From ESG to community engagement or permitting decisions, addressing EJ as part of your business strategy or operations is a critical business requirement, and it’s only going to become more essential moving forward. More information is better — for your firm, your community, your reputation, and your relationships.

    The Authors:

  • 08 Jul 2024 11:08 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    by Rick Shoyer, LSRP, Montrose Environmental

    On April 19, 2024, the U.S. EPA classified perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as hazardous substances under CERCLA, also known as Superfund. This designation directly affects the scope of the ASTM E1527-21 Standard Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA), mandating that PFOA and PFAS be included.  Here are some key considerations in developing your due diligence strategy: 

    Know Where to Research Reportable Incidents 

    Entities must promptly report any new or ongoing releases of PFOA and PFOS exceeding 1 pound. Past releases require reporting only if they remain active. Knowing where to research the reportable incidents can aid in assessing risk. 

    Identify PFAS Uses

    Identifying historical uses of PFOA and PFOS, and other PFAS, presents challenges due to their varied names and structures not always listed on Safety Data Sheets.  Conduct thorough reviews of historical records, permits, and facility documentation to uncover past fluorochemical use. Interviews with long-term employees and visual inspections can provide additional insights.

    Consider Consequences of Phase II Diligence 

    Before initiating Phase II investigations, assess contractual and regulatory risks, potential reporting obligations triggered by sampling, and implications for worker exposure and waste disposal.

    Review the Regulatory Landscape

    Familiarize yourself with TSCA requirements for reporting PFAS production, use, and disposal since 2011, and utilize EPA tools to identify nearby PFAS contamination sources.

    As PFOA and PFOS become subject to heightened regulatory scrutiny, gathering and updating property information demands careful attention to new obligations and potential impacts on operations. Understanding these requirements is crucial before committing to further investigative steps.

    About the Author:

    Rick Shoyer has over 40 years of experience in investigating and remediating organic and inorganic substances, both in-situ and ex-situ. His current focus is on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), 1,4-Dioxane, PCBs, chlorinated compounds, and hexavalent chromium. He provides technical assistance to a New York State city impacted by PFAS in its drinking water. His PFAS expertise includes surface water characterization, PFAS removal technologies like GAC and anion exchange resins, and fate and transport assessments. He has also researched alternative fluorine-free foams (FFFs) and aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs). Mr. Shoyer chairs the Emerging Contaminants Treatment and Technology group and has presented at numerous forums. He is a Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) and N-2 Industrial Operator in New Jersey, with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Michigan State University. 

    You can learn about Montrose's PFAS solutions here: 

  • 24 Jun 2024 2:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Jeffrey Campbell, Peak Environmental, A Nova Group GBC Company

    The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) kicked off the Brownfield Redevelopment Incentive Program (BRIP) in 2023 to provide funding to support redevelopment of under-utilized real estate in New Jersey. In May 2024 the program issued its first funding approval for a project in Elmwood Park, in Bergen County, New Jersey. The award was acknowledged as a great start for the BRIP by NJEDA CEO @Tim Sullivan, NJDEP Commish @Shawn LaTourette, and Bergen County Executive @Jim Tedesco. Also in attendance, @Mayor Robert Colletti confirmed the positive economic impact that the redevelopment will bring.

    The Program will award up to $50M per year to fund project tasks from assessment through remediation, including demolition costs. BRIP funds can be stacked with other EDA programs, and the credit is transferable. Eligibility is very broad. The applicant does not need to own the property, but also cannot take title until a Redevelopment Agreement is signed. Successful applicants receive a one-time tax credit issued the year the remediation is complete. Similar to typical real estate projects, interested real estate developers should assemble a team of professionals to guide them through the application process.

    The Elmwood Park project was supported by BCONE member companies Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC (“CSG Law”) and Peak Environmental, A Nova Group, GBC Company (Peak Environmental). CSG Law managed the application through eligibility requirements, environmental liability issues, financial aspects, developer qualifications, and environmental costs and planning. Peak provided due diligence services and conducted site characterization tasks necessary to complete a remediation cost estimate and schedule. Peak Environmental confirmed discharges occurred, provided an LSRP to oversee the project, evaluated possible off-site migration of contaminants, identified building material risks, and developed reasonable remediation costs. With the funding phase of the project complete, CSG and Peak Environmental will work with the developer to complete a remedial investigation, select a final remediation strategy, comply with green remediation requirements, obtain permits needed, and execute the remedial action.

    About the Author:

      Jeff Campbell is an environmental consultant with over 25 years of experience remediating soil, groundwater and vapor for industrial, commercial, and retail customers. Peak Environmental, A Nova Group GBC Company, provides high-quality, professional, and cost-effective consulting services related to identifying and remediating environmental liabilities. For more on Peak Environmental, please visit their website at:

    Link to NJEDA BRIP page

    Link to CSG Blog

    Link to Peak Blog

  • 19 Jun 2024 11:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by George Naslas, PG, LSP - Weston & Sampson

    The redevelopment of brownfield sites is often associated with the revitalization of a property to bring it back into productive use, generate local tax revenue, and increase local employment. Redevelopment can also be part of a green or open space development, such as a riverwalk, park, or rail trail. Sometimes the conversion of a brownfield site into open space can be the catalyst required to help transform a neighborhood and spur economic development. In other cases, a brownfield site simply needs to be removed or cleaned up because it is a public nuisance and a blight on the neighborhood. 

    In the Village of Woodsville within the Town of Haverhill in northwestern New Hampshire, a derelict house along a former railroad corridor had been used for many years as a drug lab to manufacture and sell methamphetamines. The town fought to shut down the operation but was hampered by jurisdictional issues with law enforcement. Eventually, operations ended and the building lay dormant, obliging the town to take title. Now, what to do with the property?

    When a community inherits a property with potential for legacy issues, the ability to sell it is often challenging. For many communities, this results in the parcel remaining abandoned and at risk for trespassers and arson. These risks put an additional burden on the community due to increased police and/or fire department presence.

    For municipalities with limited financial resources, blighted properties like this can become a huge liability. For the Woodsville, the presence of this blighted structure was a blot on the landscape and a barrier to redevelopment along Railroad Street, which parallels Main Street and is highly visible.

    Based on these factors, the town chose to demolish the building, but questions remained about the potential impacts to the site from the former drug manufacturing operations, which represented a barrier to the eventual sale of the property. Further complicating the matter, there were rumors of dangerous objects in the building and the possibility of an animal carcass buried in the yard. The town initially spent a significant sum to hire a contractor to decontaminate the building. Plus, there was a fuel tank in the dirt basement and indications of potential releases to the subsurface.

    To remedy the situation, the town pursued and secured funds from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) Brownfields Program to assess the site for hazardous building materials and demolish the building so the subsurface below the building could be accessed. 

    Using the NHDES funds, combined with additional funds from the US EPA Brownfield Program, our team developed a sampling plan which was approved by the EPA. Because the building occupied about half the lot and there were other materials dumped at the site, including an abandoned trailer, sequencing of the project was important. 

    A hazardous building materials inventory was conducted inside the building to evaluate the presence of asbestos-containing materials, lead-based paint, and other wastes that would require removal prior to demolition. Following that, the building was sealed and placed under negative air pressure while asbestos and other materials were abated by a licensed contractor. Once it was demonstrated there was no residual asbestos, the contractor removed remaining materials from the site and demolished the building, filling in and grading the basement to prevent a dangerous condition.

    Following demolition and site restoration, we further evaluated the site for the potential of lingering impacts from the drug manufacturing operations, such as volatile organic compounds. We also conducted a ground penetrating radar survey to identify potential buried objects and retained a drilling subcontractor to advance soil borings through the former basement and other locations to evaluate potential impacts to soil. No impacts were found. 

    Oh, and the rumored animal carcass? We never found one.

    Once completed, the clearing and removal of this abandoned property represented a tremendous win for the village and the Town of Haverhill as a whole. By removing the blight and addressing public safety concerns, the town now has an asset that can be either sold for revenue or tied into a proposed nearby rail trail. Sometimes removing blight is the only catalyst that is needed.   

    (This article was originally published in the November 3, 2023, issue of the New England Real Estate Journal)

    About the Author:

    George Naslas, PG, LSP, is a Vice President with Weston & Sampson. He can be reached at

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