“The revisions to the standard, including new supplemental information in the appendices, are defining good commercial practice and the bar to which environmental professionals are being held.  I’m very confident that we’re going to see an increase in consistency as the revised standard gets applied, and with that, comes defensibility. We will all have something to point to in saying: ‘This is what my industry does.’ ‘This is what this practice means.’ These revisions take those things that heretofore haven’t been clear in the standard a step closer to the nirvana of shared understanding.” Paul Zovic, President, pz group, llc

Earlier this spring, LightBox hosted a webinar, A Deep Dive into Potential Revisions to the ASTM E1527 Standard Practice for Phase I ESAs, moderated by EDR LightBox’s Alan Agadoni. The webinar was the second of many planned events to keep the industry updated as the revisions to the Phase I ESA Standard Practice move closer to final.

Our panelists were active Task Group members: Mike Wolf, National Client Manager, AEI Consultants and Paul Zovic, President, pz group, llc and a long-time ASTM course instructor. Wolf and Zovic shared their thoughts on the key areas of change and where they expect to see improvements to current practice. About 2,000 professionals attended the event, representing environmental consulting firms, commercial real estate lenders, law firms and state/local government agencies from across the U.S.

If you missed the live event, below are a few key highlights on what Zovic and Wolf had to say. A link to the replay in our ASTM Resource Center is posted at the end of this brief.

  1. This Round Is Different.

“This is the fifth revision of the ASTM E1527 standard that I’ve been involved in, and there are similarities and dissimilarities with past rounds of revisions. Back in 2005, for instance, we were very focused on the U.S. EPA’s All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI) rule. Today’s revision process is really focused on: ‘What is good commercial and customary practice?’ What I really like about that is there’s been an emphasis by the Task Group on providing clarity and making the language stronger and clearer. One thing environmental professionals and users of Phase I environmental site assessments (ESAs) can expect to see is new guidance language in several of the definitions like historical recognized environmental condition (HREC) and controlled recognized environmental condition (CREC) that we all use every day. This clarity will help both the preparers and those who read, review and rely on Phase I ESA reports.” Paul Zovic, President, pz group, llc

  1. More Clarity. More Guidance in Appendices.

While the elements of the Phase I ESA are staying largely unchanged, the Task Group has spent time reaching consensus on nuanced changes to the definition of Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) to improve the consistency of conclusions, as well as adding an expanded discussion and examples to the appendix to illustrate how the REC/HREC/CREC definitions would typically be applied in the field.

“When the standard is out, I encourage everyone, both new and experienced environmental professionals and users, to read all components and look at the definitions, but to also pay attention to the appendices. They are non-mandatory components, but they are very informative. The legal appendix has an excellent background from a legal perspective on why we do what we do, and why we don’t do certain things like assess Business Environmental Risks and non-scope items.” Mike Wolf, National Client Manager, AEI Consultants

“One of the areas I’ve spent a fair amount of time on is the appendix on RECs. When the standard is out, you’ll see that this new appendix describes the definition more clearly and is designed to help producers make better decisions. As I like to say in the ASTM classroom, it makes our work simpler. You also want to make sure that you look at the new logic diagram that we’ve used during instruction that takes the existing terminology and steps through it in a logical way to reach a REC/HREC/CREC/de minimis determination. We also added several common examples that will help users and producers really understand the nuances of the definitions. There’s been quite a lot of work on these resources and I think this appendix in particular will be well-received.” Paul Zovic, President, pz group, llc 

  1. Historical Research of Adjoining Properties

One area of revisions addressed during the webinar were the proposed revisions to historical research of adjoining properties. In reviewing the standard “Big 4” historical resources (i.e., topographic maps, local city directories, fire insurance maps and historical aerial photos) for the subject property, new language is proposed to clarify that when an environmental professional reviews these resource for the target property, and if the data is reasonably ascertainable for adjoining properties, then the environmental professional should be reviewing them. There is language that allows flexibility on the part of the environmental professional to exercise professional judgment as to whether a particular historical resource may not be beneficial and therefore was not reviewed. The proposed revisions clarify why historical sources should be reviewed for the target property and adjoining properties, and set the protocol for either documenting the review or providing justification for why certain historical sources were not reviewed.

“There are no wholesale changes to the research that the standard lays out for historical use of adjoining properties. What the revisions do is emphasize that the objective of conducting historical research, which goes back to the original regulations and is emphasized in the AAI regulations, is not only to evaluate the target property for RECs, but also to assess what could have occurred on nearby or adjoining properties that also could impact the subject property. It’s also important for environmental professionals to keep in mind that adjoining properties can change. An adjoining property that might be a highway now could have been an urban development in the past with uses that could have significant impacts on a subject property. That’s another reason we’re emphasizing the use of a combination of historical resources and requiring environmental professionals to document the potential impacts of those changes in uses. It’s to the benefit of everyone.” Mike Wolf, National Client Manager, AEI Consultants  

“I don’t know that it’s an additional burden being put on the environmental professionals so much as trying to get consistency by making the language clearer and stronger. We’ve always been required to do historical research on adjoining properties, and most consultants already are.  What’s important to bear in mind is that when we think about adjoining properties, there’s significance in the work that we do with respect to CERCLA liability. It matters profoundly if the REC that I’m identifying is from an onsite release or from a likely offsite release from an adjoining property.” Paul Zovic, President, pz group, llc    

For More Information

Our webinar series on E1527 revisions is just one of many things LightBox has in the works to help ensure our clients are prepared when the new standard is published.

  • To hear what Wolf and Zovic had to say on emerging contaminants and PFAS, shelf life changes, site recon and more, listen to the full replay here.  
  • Bookmark our new ASTM E1527 Resource Center to stay up to date on LightBox’s efforts to educate the industry on this important revision process, information about upcoming webinars, blogs, the LightBox ASTM Update newsletter and other informational resources.
  • Stay tuned for more dates and topics for upcoming webinars, including one on how environmental consultants protect themselves from common areas of liability exposure. 
  • We are also preparing tools to help you educate staff and make changes to your client communications, report templates and internal processes to ensure that you are doing all you can to prepare for E 1527-21. 

Special thanks to our panelists Mike Wolf, and Paul Zovic for sharing their valuable insights during our webinar!

Paul ZovicMichael Wolf

Category Environmental Consulting