Environmental review is a critical aspect of project development and land use permitting. Depending upon the jurisdiction of the project, there will be different issues to consider. It is particularly important to make sure to look at where there may be implications that can ripple through the entire project. Oftentimes, we are dealing with land that is farmland, particularly in the Midwest. You would think this land is already heavily impacted. Farming is quite an industrial practice in in the modern world, with many environment regulations. However, an environmental impact study of land use based upon ecological suitability lays fresh eyes on it. Storm water; endangered species; vegetation must all be reviewed on the site to determine the impact of the project and what mitigations may need to be employed during development. Certain impacts may also be evident upon review of title work such as conservation easements that may need to be released to allow for development. Developers must be very proactive, expect the best but plan for the worst. You cannot be too prepared.
When the environmental study comes back, there may be certain areas of the property to avoid and this will affect the design and constructability of the project. We have seen many projects impacted by wetlands. Sometimes there are family cemeteries, or areas especially on agricultural land, that must be avoided because of some contamination and you don’t want to pay for the reclamation. We work with the design and construction teams to ensure that all potential issues are taken into account and/or remediated.
In addition to reviewing environmental impact, we also need to craft legal descriptions for the project, taking into consideration lease compliance issues, ensuring that you have insurable access to all project improvements including transmission lines and substation. You don’t want to create a legal description and then realize that you have the project site dissected by a transmission line that prevents contiguity of the property on the north and south. The environmental impact study is a critical piece when we determine land use and how the project is designed. Be certain that this is always included in front-end risk assessment.