Tackling The Challenges Of Agency File Reviews


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Presentation by: Pat Coyne
Fall 2013 DDD Tour

One key area of revision in E 1527-13 clarifies when a review of agency files should be conducted during a Phase I environmental site assessment. For some consultants, the clarifying language on AFRs may raise the bar of what is typically conducted during a Phase I ESA. Agency file reviews can bring valuable information to a Phase I ESA investigation, but are not without their challenges. Depending on the target property involved, AFRs can vary in complexity, obtainability, location of files and level of effort. When the revised E 1527 standard takes effect later this year, you need to ensure that your reports adequately reflect the new language about when an agency file review should be conducted—and what to do if one cannot be conducted. This timely track will address the concerns and areas of confusion raised about the new requirements, including:

What’s changing?
Current industry practice in performing AFRs
Differences from state to state in terms of availability of files, travel time required, responsiveness of agencies, and inconsistent/incomplete data
Determining when an agency file review is and is not “reasonably ascertainable”
Adequately pricing Phase I ESAs given the significant variability in the level of effort required
How best to educate your clients about the new language

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  • In most cases, the database report would contain far less information.
  • Tackling The Challenges Of Agency File Reviews

    1. 1. © 2012 Environmental Data Resources, Inc. 2014 DDD Tour Agency File Review
    2. 2. Agenda • Challenges associated with performing agency file reviews. • Results of two surveys 2
    3. 3. What’s in them? • Source files • Other examples Page 3
    4. 4. Details • I’m doing a Phase I, and can account for the closure of four tanks. How many were originally installed? Page 4
    5. 5. Beyond the database report • This is what was in the DB Report Page 5
    6. 6. Details vs. DETAILS • Two waste oil tanks • 500 & 250 gallons • Removed in ‘91 • Filled w/ sand & gravel • Oversight by FD • ESA performed • No contamination observed Page 6
    7. 7. Driver of Agency File Reviews • As I think you will see from the survey, it’s best practice for closing loops. • It is a core ASTM 1527 data element, even before the 1527- 13 revision. • That is why the task group included it as a clarification in the ASTM 1527-13 standard. Page 7
    8. 8. ASTM 1527-13 8
    9. 9. Summary of 8.2.2 • Property or adjoining “hit” in any 8.2.1 database • Agency files should be reviewed • Subject to 8.1.1-7 (reasonably ascertainable, reasonable time and cost) • If not warranted, EP must explain • Alternative sources • Shall include summary of the information reviewed • EP must comment on sufficiency 9
    10. 10. Purpose We wanted to learn, and communicate to you, how the market utilizes this practice, and the impact of the 1527-13 standard. 10
    11. 11. Market Research • Survey of EP’s. • Calling campaign to all 50 state agencies to document processes. • ASTM task group participation. • EP interviews • Discussions with lenders Page 11
    12. 12. Survey • National: 335 total complete surveys PRE 1527-13 • 250 total surveys POST 1527-13 • CA DDD attendees 12
    13. 13. When do you do it? • When do they conduct them? • 62% with the Phase I • 31% afterwards 13
    14. 14. How far?
    15. 15. Available Online?
    16. 16. • I had to make an appointment 76% • Hours are limited 37% • 56% make copies • 60% review and abstract 17 Once you’re there…
    17. 17. Subject or Adjacent? • What are they looking for? • Not subject property only • Either subject property, or both TP and adjoining 18
    18. 18. 19 How long does it take?
    19. 19. How do you charge for it? 20
    20. 20. A lot of variability • In reading the qualitative responses, a majority of the respondents mention a very high variability in information available, quality of information, access to information. 22
    21. 21. • Operational • Disparate • No standardization • Multiple programs • Different accessibility • Not to mention local • Report templates • Business • Educating clients • Fees Challenges 23
    22. 22. Sample of CA Agencies Page 24 CAL EPACALEPA, Dept. of Toxic SubstancesCalifornia Natural Resources AgencyCalifornia Spatial Information LibraryCentral Coast Region (3)Central Valley Region (5)County of SAC/HMDCounty of San DiegoDepartment of ConservationDepartment of Fish & GameDepartment of HealthDepartment of Toxic Substances ControlDepartment of Water ResourcesDept of Env. HealthLA CO Dept. of Public WorksLahontan Region (6)Los Angeles Region (4)North Coast Region (1)Office of Emergency ServicesOffice of Historic PreservationPublic Works, Waste Management San Diego County Department of Environmental Health San Diego Region (9)San Francisco Bay Region (2)San Jose Fire DepartmentSanta Ana Region (8)Solid Resources Eng. & Cons.SWRCBSWRCB, Aboveground Petroleum SSWRCB, Info Services BranchVictorville Branch Office (6)
    23. 23. CA DDD Attendees • “Are you aware of the changes that E 1527-13 made regarding AFR requirements?” • 33% are NOT aware. 25
    24. 24. CA DDD Attendees • “How often do you attempt to access agency files for Phase I ESA projects?” • 74% “always” do • 92% “always” or “often” 26
    25. 25. CA DDD Attendees • “Have your AFR practices changed since the publication of ASTM 1527-13?” • 83% “No, I did them before, and I do them now.” • 15% “Yes, I am conducting AFR’s more now.” 27 Have your AFR practices changed since the publication of ASTM E1527-13 No, I did them before and I do agency file reviews now Yes, I am conducting agency file reviews more frequently now than i did before Yes, I didn’t do agency file reviews before but I do now Yes, I'm doing agency file reviews less frequently now than I did before
    26. 26. Qualitative Results 28 • We always did them for the site and nearby listings of significant concern. Now we complete them for a lot more adjoining properties. • I've always conducted them, but I have been requesting more files than usual for off-site properties. • Yes, for adjoining properties. No change for Subject Property • If sites of concern are identified within radii of concern to the Subject Property, then we review the files. • If there are indications of past investigations or assessment and the client has not provided the documentation, file review is a must. • GeoTracker has made this easier, but lots of local CUPAs do not put their information on line and a trip to the agency is required (and often requires a change order)
    27. 27. Questions Lenders are asking EP Firms • “Remind me…are you completing AFR’s as a standard part of the Phase I scope of work you conduct for me?” • “Will completing a file review affect the TAT and price of my Phase I?” • “Should we be revising our scope of work to make it more clear whether we expect AFR?” • Regardless of the answers, they want to feel confident that their EP partner has a rock solid understanding of the details of the changes. 29
    28. 28. NFA Page 30