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3 min read

What’s the Difference? Transect v. Phase I ESA

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One common question about Transect is whether our reports are the same as a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA). The short answer: NOPE. While a Phase 1 ESA may be a box you must check as part of an acquisition process, the information you get from a Transect report saves time, money, and headaches in all project phases – including siting, acquisition, development, and ongoing operations and maintenance.


A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Searches For Potential Contamination Liabilities

In the 1980s, the U.S. courts determined that a buyer, lessor, or lender could be held responsible for the cleanup (or remediation) of hazardous substances found on their land, even if that contamination occurred before they were involved with the property. However, the court noted that this liability could be mitigated if the buyer, lessor, or lender had a Phase I ESA report that determined no hazardous material present at the time of the sale. This action was known as the “safe harbor” or “Innocent Landowner Defense.” In 1998, as part of the Superfund Cleanup Act, Congress took things further by requiring all commercial property purchasers to conduct a Phase I ESA during the due diligence process.

The traditional Phase 1 ESA process is time-consuming and relatively costly, as it involves a thorough investigation of the past and present property used by an environmental professional (usually a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) or Professional Geologist (PG)). As part of a Phase I assessment, this professional reviews records, conducts a site inspection, and interviews owners, occupants, neighbors, and local government officials about the property’s history. They may also take water and soil samples, although these are not required. Ultimately, a Phase I ESA provides details about potential on-site environmental contamination by hazardous materials. If these environmental concerns are found or suspected, it will trigger the more in-depth “Phase II ESA” inspection under the same laws. A contaminated property may require costly remediation before it can be developed, and while some grant funds may be available to help with remediation efforts, a contaminated property obviously poses numerous challenges and risks for a buyer.


Transect Is An Environmental Risk and Permitting Roadmap

There are several ways that a Transect Report differs from a Phase I ESA. Instead of focusing on local contamination covered under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), Transect Reports reveal many potential environmental issues. This data varies from threatened and endangered species, jurisdictional waterways and wetlands, protected areas, flood hazards, and many more. These risks could result in liability or limited use under the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, National Historic Preservation Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and other environmental regulations well beyond CERCLA. In fact, each report covers various state and federal environmental rules based on the project’s unique location and geographic features. For example, Transect reports can alert property owners to nearby critical habitats that could be expanded in the future to include your parcel under the Endangered Species Act. An event like this could significantly limit your ability to develop the land now or in the future.

Second, unlike a Phase 1 environmental site assessment, which takes time to schedule and must be conducted by an environmental consulting professional or another environmental professional, our reports are generated on demand within minutes. Users access a comprehensive collection of publicly-available and proprietary natural resources data online within minutes and use interactive tools to make the data more meaningful than ever.

Finally, Transect gives you the information you need in a format that makes it easy to take the next steps and is reviewed by our in-house environmental professionals for quality assurance. We provide:

  • Federal and state regulatory summaries.

  • A permit and authorization matrix.

  • Permitting timelines that help you get the permissions you need to move forward with your project quickly.

Based on our findings, we may also suggest additional field studies such as wetlands delineations, protected species habitat assessments, or cultural resources studies that you might not otherwise know you needed.


Proper Environmental Due Diligence is the Gateway to Success

A Phase I ESA only covers your liability under CERCLA. With Transect, you get a complete picture of your project so you can protect your project from the dozens of environmental and cultural influences that could impede your project or your profitability down the line. The environmental site assessment process should work for you, not against you. That’s why our data goes beyond the hazardous waste, topographic maps, and outdated aerial photographs others may provide you. When you know everything, you can build anything.

To learn more about your project’s lurking environmental issues, upload your project today.

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