Do You Need an Environmental Assessment?

How to Prepare an Environmental Assessment

Nuclear power plant with yellow field and big blue clouds in Germany.
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An environmental assessment is a study required to establish all the impacts either positive or negative about one particular project. It will consist of technical evaluation, economic impact and social results that the project will bring. The environmental assessment will have to:

  • Identify possible environmental effects.
  • Propose measurements to mitigate adverse effects.
  • Predict whether there will be significant adverse environmental effects, even after the mitigation is implemented.

Environmental site assessments are not used to identify the nature and extent of contaminants on a specific site. It is important to highlight that environmental audits that are used to evaluate the environmental management and regulatory compliance of a specific operation not through environmental assessments.

How to Draft an Environmental Assessment? Do You Really Need One?

There are certain questions that should be answered before knowing if you really need an environmental assessment.

Do I Need One?

An Environmental assessment study is a complex one and will depend on several factors and variables to get the most comprehensive document. Normally the design engineer will determine if you need one depending on the scope and type of work being proposed. In other instances, the government can also require an environmental assessment to be in compliance with local or federal laws and regulations. 

Who Is in Charge? Who is Responsible?

It will be the responsible authority who will notify other agencies their participation. They will also bring their expert information and data. The agency or party responsible for the study will establish a scope of the project, the factors that must be considered and the expected time frame to deliver the study. The environmental technician will gather data, conduct interviews and research for the impact zones. Then he will be able to identify the potential environmental effects and measures to mitigate those effects.

What About the Findings of the Report?

The responsible agency or agencies will then review the findings of the report for adequacy and accuracy. They will verify against other assessments, older reports, and historical data to verify the veracity of the report. After all the review process has been completed, the agencies or manager will decide whether the environmental effects are significant or are minimal. Based on this information the project will continue its course, it will require modification, or it will end here.

How and When Will the Mitigation Take Place? What About the Follow-Up Plan?

If the project has the go-ahead, then the mitigation measures should start immediately. The mitigation, which was also part of the original assessment, must be incorporated into drawings, plans, and implements with the project. As part of the environmental assessment sometimes is required having a follow-up plan, that will assure that all required processes are being implemented and that there are no other impacts than the ones already studied.

What Types of Projects Will Normally Require an Environmental Assessment?

Although there is no solid answer or direct answer to this question, based on experience and information processed by the agencies, I would recommend EA for the following projects:

  • Power Plants
  • Natural gas projects
  • Industrial projects
  • Chemical Manufacturing Plants
  • Metal processing plants
  • Mine and Coal projects
  • Quarries and sand and gravel pits
  • Energy projects, including power plants, transmission lines, substations and related power generation projects
  • Water management projects
  • Dams
  • Projects located in or near wetlands
  • Projects on which groundwater extraction is being planned
  • Projects that require extensive impact of vegetation and locate in forest property
  • Waste management plants
  • Wastewater facilities
  • Food processing facilities
  • Transportation projects, including but not limited to highways, marine ports or dredging.
  • Other projects that will impact extensive areas or area located within environmental sensible areas

As you can see, there are many projects that will require EA, although not all of them will need to complete the whole process. The designated authority will be the one making the final determination in regards to ​requirements and exceptions.