Oil On the Rise Means Due Diligence Is Wise

As the price of crude oil continues to slowly recover, topping over $60 per barrel over the last 6 months, increased activity in the Eagle Ford Shale and Austin Chalk is now more noticeable.  With increasing oil prices, opportunities to buy in to established fields are being evaluated and pursued by Oil & Gas exploration companies, operating companies, and investment firms.  A thorough Due Diligence review is a proactive strategy to assess early the assets in the evaluation stage when making a go/no go determination, and to understand future environmental risks. There are many factors that impact the evaluation of purchased property in this field.  A quick assessment can be completed to determine current conditions of equipment, operational history, compliance with regulatory guidelines, impact to natural resources, and tracking of environmental liabilities to name a few.  The completion of a Due Diligence review can identify the specific risks associated with an asset, and help identify a
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Money Laundering: The Legal Way That Makes Sense

OK, this is not a story about Russians or unscrupulous real estate moguls. Instead, we have recently been asked in two separate projects to “launder” money at banks, as in, clean the stacks of cash due to contamination. Most recently there was the case of a bank customer bringing in stacks of cash that were contaminated with fiberglass particles. There’s got to be a back story to that, but we can only guess as to the source of the fiberglass. We are not talking about a few bills, this was thousands of dollars. The fiberglass particles, which were not readily discernable to the staff, became airborne and caused respiratory discomfort to the employees and customers of the bank. We were able to come in and supervise the removal of the fiberglass particles using specialized vacuum cleaners and the bank was able to get back to business right away. The fiberglass
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Stormwater Compliance In Practice

The history of stormwater regulation dates all the way back to 1972 with the passage of the Clean Water Act (CWA) by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The CWA, and subsequent legislation over the years, is both the precursor and the framework for current stormwater permits today.  The laws were initially passed to create some control over the amount of pollution entering waterways through industrial stormwater runoff.  The EPA has given the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) the authority to regulate stormwater permits in Texas.  The permit most commonly used by industry is the TXR050000 Multi-Sector General Permit. So what is a “sector?” The TCEQ has broken the TXR050000 permit down into industry specific sectors, from A through Z and on to AD.  Each sector covers a specific industry or group of industries.  You can find which sector you might fall into based on your SIC code.  With
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Wastewater Treatment Facility – Design and Construction

W&M was engaged by a client to rapidly produce and begin implementing construction of a temporary wastewater treatment plant to ease onsite waste handling challenges at an industrial scale pet food manufacturing facility. The system was required to be simple, robust, and provide capacity for plant expansion. The equipment reduces biological oxygen demand and solids content in the final waste water effluent stream.



Sometimes It Pays To Get A Second Opinion

Recently I was contacted by a client of ours who was purchasing a large commercial building in the downtown area of a large Texas city. He had a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (Phase I) conducted by another firm, which concluded that there was a Recognized Environmental Condition (“REC”) at the property. The REC was the presence of a previously removed underground storage tank. A follow-up Phase II was conducted by the consultant, who found dangerously high levels of petroleum and chlorinated solvent vapor all throughout the property. The discovery of the high levels of petroleum and solvent vapors caused the client to suggest holding back $1MM from the purchase price to cover the predicted remediation costs. This, obviously, caused both parties and their attorneys to get a little agitated that the transaction might be in jeopardy. I was asked to review the reports and provide a second opinion on
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Is The Endangered Species Act Too Strict?

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), signed into law by President Richard Nixon, is one of the most significant pieces of legislation enacted in U.S. history. The Act affords extensive protection for imperiled species and their habitats, addressing broad conservation concerns across the country. Since its inception in 1973, the Act has protected over 2,000 endangered, threatened and at-risk animal and plant species and has prevented the extinction of 99% of the species that it protects. Administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), these agencies have worked together for 45 years to uphold the spirit of the Act. Threatened and endangered species are afforded the same protection under the Act, and are listed solely on the basis of their biological status and threats to their existence. Under the Act, species and their habitats are protected by prohibiting the “take” of listed animals
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Are We In Compliance With Environmental Regulations?

If someone has ever asked you “Are we in compliance with environmental regulations?”, there’s a good chance your role involves managing environmental compliance programs at your operating facility.  Or maybe your role is at the corporate level where you focus on strategic development of environmental, health, and safety programs and how that aligns with the operational and growth goals of the company.  Either way, you know the challenges associated with maintaining environmental compliance and how the question can sometimes be hard to answer. So what kind of environmental management system (EMS) do you need to answer the question? Odds are you don’t need an ISO certified management system, but you probably need to know the key metrics that ensure that the environmental and sustainability commitments that your company have established are on track.  The basis of this usually stems from an evaluation and identification of risks, review of culture and
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It’s Crucial! Safety First…No Matter What!

As an Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) consultant,  I am often asked to provide site level safety support overseeing multiple subcontractors.  I’ve found that the safety culture of our subcontractors varies greatly.  For example, the smaller subcontractors may not have the resources to implement a strong or well developed safety program. My job is to bridge the gap between the client and the subcontractors.  I’ve learned that regardless of the project type, a successful project is one in which safety is considered during the planning phase.  If you have a good understanding of your client’s safety culture and expectations from the start, you can pre-qualify your subcontractors for safety.  A contractor health and safety plan can be developed to include training requirements, injury reporting requirements and program requirements, and be provided to the contractors before they bid on the project.  Project communication and training can be tailored to fill the “gaps” that may
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TRI – It’s Never Too Early to Start

July 1st will be here before you know it – so get started on your Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting now. The TRI is an annual report required under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). You are required to report if… Your primary NAICS code (formerly SIC) is listed or you are a Federal facility; and Have 10 or more full-time employees (equivalent of 20,000 hours/year); and “Manufacture”, “process” or “otherwise use” listed Section 313 chemicals in excess of their reporting threshold. If your facility meets the first two criteria, you will need to evaluate your chemical usage to determine if you exceed the reporting threshold. If yes, then either a Form A or Form R report must be submitted to the EPA and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).  Even if you do not exceed the reporting thresholds, you should maintain documentation
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Contaminated Soil Remediation – VCP

W&M closed a contaminated soil project for a former dry-cleaning facility in North Texas through the Texas Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP). The goal of the project was to obtain regulatory closure in order to allow our client to use the property for future commercial development. An affected property assessment was completed for the property, which indicated that soil and groundwater underlying the site was impacted with perchloroethylene (also known as tetrachloroethene or “perc”), which is a common dry-cleaning solvent. After excavating and properly disposing of the contaminated soil, W&M worked with it’s client and the TCEQ to close the VCP case with the use of a Municipal Setting Designation (MSD) to ensure that the property was safe for future uses and to avoid potentially costly groundwater remediation activities. An MSD is an official designation by the local municipality as well as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that certifies
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