The retrofit and redesign of existing parking lots presents an opportunity to reduce stormwater runoff and improve the sustainability and visual appearance within communities. Stormwater infiltration projects involve measuring the percolation potential of parking lots and installing permeable pavers to allow for stormwater infiltration, thus reducing the runoff that would otherwise wash into storm drains, creeks, and the ocean. Fine rock and soil filter the stormwater before it is recharged.
Rincon has completed several parking lot infiltration projects, and within the last month have been contracted for four similar projects. One of these projects, completed in December 2013, included the removal of approximately 100,000 square feet of asphalt and the installation of permeable pavers in Santa Barbara. Going forward, Rincon is looking forward to continuing our work on these exciting projects.
For more information on these projects and Prop 84 funding, please visit http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/grants_loans/prop84/.
By Ryan Gardner, LEED GA, ENV SP
The year 2013 presented a number of actions related to California Air Resources Board (ARB)’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting program. The first penalties levied by the ARB to reports for failure to comply with AB 32 were settled in November. Nine companies were fined a total of $295,000 for errors found in their 2011 and 2012 annual greenhouse gas reports. Several types of reporting errors were identified and by the ARB including:
• late reports
• deficient GHG Monitoring Plans
• failure to demonstrate the required level of precision, and
• various errors with GHG production calculations
With the levying of these penalties, the ARB makes a distinct departure from the leniency associated with the first two years of the GHG reporting program compliance enforcement, and opens the door to the heightened regulatory scrutiny that can be expected in the future.
Since its adoption, the AB 32 Mandatory Reporting Regulation (MRR) has undergone two significant updates to meet the needs of the Cap-and-Trade program and to repair some inconsistencies with the regulation. Revisions have ranged from changes to terminology in the definitions to expansion of the reporting requirements to include a variety of different product data. However, from a reporting perspective, the most significant part of the update is the revision made to section 95131(b)(8), which states that any discrepancies between a facilities-reported GHG data and the data evaluated by their GHG Verifier must be corrected. At first review, this change to the MRR does not appear to be overly onerous. However, a thorough review of ARB’s interpretation reveals that even a minor discrepancy can lead to a statement of non-conformance. ARB has stated that if all discrepancies identified during the verification process are not corrected, verifiers are obligated to submit an adverse verification statement, in accordance with sections 95131(b)(9) and 95102(a)(8). The implication of this change is that even minor rounding difference that may only represent a fraction of a percent can lead to a need for significant revisions to the GHG report or a reporter may face a significant monetary risk.
With these changes, reporters must now work through a more complex reporting and verification program while at the same facing heightened regulatory scrutiny. To protect themselves from fines and negative verifications reports must be confident in their abilities to adhere to an accurate greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting methodology that fully complies with the revised MRR. Significant advantages can be found in reporters who have a strong understanding of the verification process and will be able to design their calculations and reports to provide all the specific data and precision required by the MRR. A well-documented report will help to mitigate risks associated with increasingly stringent emissions regulations and save time and effort throughout the verification process.
For additional information or assistance with GHG reporting or verification assistance, please contact Ryan Gardner or Erik Feldman.
Rincon Consultants - Oakland
Rincon Consultants - Ventura
For more information on Rincon's sustainability services or to request a quote, please click the buttons below.
Recently, Rincon biologists performed trail camera surveys looking for the endangered San Joaquin kit fox in the Central Valley. Trail camera surveys were just one part of the complete study of a proposed renewable energy project site in Fresno County, which also included a jurisdictional delineation, cultural and paleontological assessment, habitat mapping, and a raptor nesting habitat assessment within one mile of the site. No foxes were found, but many other animals were captured. Check out some of the great nighttime (and daytime!) photos captured.
This is what one of our camera stations looked like.
We didn’t find any kit foxes, but we did capture some coyotes roaming the site.
And even some kangaroo rats, which we did not expect.
Of course, there were rabbits…
And ravens a plenty!
It didn’t take long for this loggerhead shrike (a state Species of Special Concern) to figure out that something fishy was going on.
The local cat figured it out there was free food!
As did the sheep dogs. Yum!
And when we say wildlife, we don’t just mean animals! (Luckily, they left the camera alone.)
Hey, is this thing on?
For more information about Rincon's biological resource services, download the flyer below.
ASTM has recently published a new standard for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs), ASTM Standard E1527-13, which replaces ASTM E1527-05 as the industry guideline to conduct Phase I ESAs. Rather than create a new set of requirements, the basic purpose of the new E1527-13 standard was to clarify some ambiguous language and guidance in the E1527-05 standard. These changes will have little impact on due diligence professionals that were already conducting Phase I ESAs “correctly” (in accordance with the actual intent of the language). However, these changes will have an impact on the improved quality of Phase I ESAs.
The U.S. EPA is expected to publish an updated/amended final rule formally referencing this new standard in the upcoming months. According to online resources such as EDR’s webinars presented by ASTM committee members, E1527-05 may continue to be formally referenced by the EPA in its updated/amended AAI (All Appropriate Inquires) rule, meaning that a consultant could conduct a Phase I to either standard and be in compliance with AAI.
In the meantime, Rincon has updated its reports and is beginning to educate clients as to the new language they may see in our reports. This article is intended to highlight the key changes in the new standard and clarify common misconceptions. The following is a brief summary of changes with the new ASTM E1527-13 standard.
Definitions: The new standard attempts to clarify previous ambiguities by introducing a new term, Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition (CREC), and updating the definitions of Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) and Historic Recognized Environmental Condition (HREC).
• A CREC is a past release that has been addressed to the satisfaction of the applicable regulatory authority but is subject to some form of control, such as a property use restriction or engineering control. The classification of CREC will be helpful for identifying post-acquisition continuing obligations for property owners (i.e., site use limitations, ensuring that the control is implemented as required by the regulatory agency).
• An HREC is a past release that has been addressed and meets unrestricted land use criteria, for which no controls are required. Note that the Environmental Professional must determine if the HREC is actually a REC at the time of the Phase I: if there has been a change in regulatory criteria since the time of the release, and the EP believes that the impact would no longer qualify for unrestricted land use (i.e., a regulatory agency may now require a control), it may fall under the definition of an REC or CREC.
• The definition of REC was slightly modified and simplified but has not substantially changed.
File Reviews: The new standard states that if the site or adjacent properties are listed in standard record sources, “pertinent regulatory files and/or records associated with the listing should be reviewed” (emphasis added) to determine if a recognized environmental condition (REC), historical recognized environmental condition (HREC), or de minimis condition exists at the subject property in connection with the listing. Note that the standard does not say “shall” be reviewed; it goes on to say that instead of reviewing actual regulatory files (e.g., driving to the state agency to review hardcopy files), the EP may seek alternative sources of information (e.g., online records, interviews with regulatory agency personnel). If a regulatory file review is not conducted, the EP is required to explain the justification in the report.
Vapor Migration: The standard is clarified to reference vapor migration as one of the forms of movement of hazardous substances or petroleum products in the subsurface. Consultants are required to assess the potential for a REC at the subject property in connection with vapor migration, similarly to how we already assess for impacts from groundwater migration or impacts to soil. A distinction must be made between vapor migration and vapor intrusion; there is no requirement to assess vapor intrusion (i.e., into a building). Even though the word “vapor” does not appear in the E1527-05 standard, EPs were supposed to always be assessing vapor migration. A note in the new standard states that vapor migration is described in the ASTM standard E2600 for Vapor Encroachment Screens, but that there is no requirement to use that standard to comply with ASTM. Although vapor encroachment screens (VESs) are not included in the new standard, they can be requested by the Client and may be recommended by the consultant based on the results of the Phase I ESA. Look for our upcoming white paper regarding the ASTM VES standard E2600 to learn more about vapor encroachment.
Moving forward, the important next steps for property acquisition professionals will be to:
• Familiarize yourself with the new ASTM standard
• Discuss the changes with your current environmental due diligence consultant
• Coordinate with your lending institution about their specific Phase I ESA requirements
• Coordinate with grant and other loan sources about their specific Phase I ESA requirements
• Sharing suggestions and feedback with other property acquisition professionals and the environmental consultant community
Additionally, these changes and others can be discussed further with our Phase I ESA Due Diligence Professionals. Click the buttons below to download our Site Assessment flyer or to request a quote.
Urban stormwater runoff is increasingly recognized as a significant variable in the health of aquatic organisms and public health. Debris and pollutants carried by stormwater into surface waters used for potable and recreational water supplies can adversely affect these resources if not properly treated. For nearly two decades, the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has regulated the runoff and treatment of storm water from industrial, construction and municipal sources in California. The State Water Board is required to issue permits that are consistent with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) storm water regulations adopted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act.
Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs) are a requirement of the NPDES that regulate water quality when associated with construction or industrial activities. This past July, the SWRCB released the 2013 Draft NPDES Permit for the Discharge of Storm Water Associated With Industrial Activities (the "Draft Industrial General Permit", or IGP), which proposes significant changes in the regulation of storm water discharges from industrial facilities.The following summarized changes in the revised and simplified Draft 2013 IGP from the 2012 Draft IGP.
1. There is only one type of Qualified Industrial Storm Water Practitioner (QISP) in the IGP, instead of three as previously proposed.
2. QISP training is not required until exceedance response actions are triggered.
3. Additionally, anyone can prepare No Exposure Certification (NEC) – a QISP is no longer required.
1. The previous requirements to conduct pre-storm visual observations and quarterly authorized and unauthorized non-storm water discharge visual observations are now combined into one new monthly visual observation requirement.
2. The previous requirement to conduct monthly storm water visual observations is now tied to the actual sampling events, which are required twice in each half of the year.
3. Rain gauges and measurement of rainfall are no longer required.
4. Litmus paper is allowed to be used for screening of pH exceedances.
5. Lastly, eligibility for a Sample Frequency Reduction only requires data from four storm events instead of eight.
Exceedance Response Actions (ERAs). The permit proposes differing levels of response when water quality is affected, depending on the magnitude and frequency of the exceedence.
1. Level changes in the ERA requirements now will become effective at the start of the reporting year following the exceedance(s).
2. Action plans and technical reports are part of the requirements for the highest level of exceedences requiring action.
1. Dischargers from the same or similar industries are encouraged to form Compliance Groups.
2. Only one type of Compliance Group is allowed, instead of two. Participants in Compliance
Annual Reports. The 2013 draft IGP greatly reduces annual reporting requirements.
No Discharge. The 2013 draft IGP provides new “No-Discharge” eligibility requirements for dischargers eligible to file a Notice of Non-Applicability.
The 2013 Draft NPDES Industrial General Permit (and other associated documents) may be viewed and downloaded from the State Water Board’s website at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/stormwater/industrial.shtml
To download Rincon's water services flyer or to request a quote, please click the buttons below.
A recent court decision on a CEQA case provides guidance that may have ramifications for CEQA projects on a couple of fronts: the need to evaluate environmental impacts on a proposed project, in addition to environmental impacts caused by a proposed project, and the level of CEQA review necessary when adopting significance thresholds. In 2012, the Alameda Superior Court invalidated the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD)’s adoption of CEQA significance thresholds for certain air pollutants and greenhouse gasses on the basis that the adoption of thresholds constituted a “project” under CEQA, and therefore required CEQA review. On August 13, the First District Court of Appeal filed its decision on California Building Industry Association v. BAAQMD, in which the Court upheld the process followed by the BAAQMD to adopt its 2010 significance thresholds for criteria air pollutant emissions, toxic air contaminants, and greenhouse gas emissions, ruling that a public agency’s adoption of CEQA significance thresholds does not constitute a “project,” and consequently, does not require CEQA review.
Perhaps most importantly for CEQA practitioners, the Court also used the decision to acknowledge that exposure to preexisting environmental hazards can be a substantial adverse effect on new project residents under CEQA. The Building Industry Association had argued that the BAAQMD’s thresholds were contrary to recent case law, such as Ballona Wetlands Land Trust v. City of Los Angeles, because the thresholds improperly required an analysis of the impact of the existing environment (i.e., existing air quality issues, including toxic air contaminants) on the project itself (or “new receptors,” such as new residents of a project) rather than just the impacts of the project on the environment. In the Ballona Wetlands decision, the Second District Court of Appeal ruled that an EIR need not discuss impacts of sea level rise on a proposed project or the people who may live in the proposed project. In this more recent decision, the Court disagreed with the Ballona Wetlands decision, stating that: “A new project located in an area that will expose its occupants to preexisting dangerous pollutants can be said to have substantial adverse effect on human beings.” However, the Court’s decision did not fully address the issue of whether such analysis is appropriate for individual projects where the application of the threshold would only address the impacts of the environment on the project itself. As a result, CEQA practitioners should continue to tread cautiously in this area for the foreseeable future.
In addition, this decision reinforces the opportunity for public agencies to adopt significance thresholds in accordance with the CEQA Guidelines, and provides the means by which BAAQMD may reinstate their previously adopted thresholds for GHG analysis, or adopt new standards. However, the Court’s decision does not become final for more than a month, allowing time for the Building Industry Association to seek review in the California Supreme Court or in a rehearing. Even if there is no further litigation, it will still take time for the BAAQMD to revisit the issue.
For more information on the CEQA services Rincon provides, download our SOQ below.
Two local, listed shorebird species – the federally threatened western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) and the federally and state endangered California least tern (Sternula antillarum browni) – have been a focus of attention for Rincon's biologists lately. Three of our biologists have federal recovery permits (via Section 10(a)(1)(A) of the federal Endangered Species Act) and state Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) to survey and monitor nesting colonies for these species, and we are working on increasing that number.
The first project that laid the foundation for future work was the Ormond Beach monitoring project for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW, formerly California Department of Fish and Game). This is our third year of monitoring the Ormond Beach nesting colony. After we began these surveys, we received a contract to monitor snowy plovers for Los Angeles Beaches & Harbors. We also began doing surveys for California least terns at the United Water Conservation District’s Freeman Diversion facility and we have provided least tern and snowy plover expertise for the Ventura County Watershed Protection District’s J Street Drain Improvement Project. Rincon was also recently awarded an on-call contract to perform work for biological surveys and monitoring for the Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors.
Because we have in-house technical experts in this field and need field assistants, we are able to provide other staff with needed hours of experience with these species so that they can then apply for their own federal recovery permits and state MOUs. Generally the federal permit requires 40 hours of observation of nests, chicks, and breeding adults while performing protocol surveys under someone’s permit.
Both bird species are beach nesters along the coast of California. Although there are no hard and fast rules for how birds nest, historically the snowy plover and least tern have nested colonially, so the surveys for both can be done concurrently at Ormond Beach. The least tern is very aggressive and territorial, and will protect its young and nests by dive bombing any intruder in their nesting colony. If you were a snowy plover, you might want to use this to your advantage and nest nearby. Although we are only halfway through the nesting season, we have not observed any least tern nests in the Ormond Beach colony, but a colony down the beach at Point Mugu Naval Base had approximately 10 nests during the week of 5/13/13.
Going forward, Rincon continues to increase work on shorebird monitoring and nest surveying, as there is a market throughout the coast for this type of expertise and experience. If you want a more in-depth look at Rincon's shorebird monitoring program, please download the presentation below.
Additional information can also be found at the following sites:
In order for Rincon to meet our client’s stormwater compliance needs during construction, it is important to understand the different requirements of the state, counties, and cities in California. Under the State of California Construction General Permit (CGP), construction or demolition activity resulting in land disturbance equal to or greater than one acre (or less than 1 acre if part of a common plan of development) will be regulated with project-specific requirements. Furthermore, several counties and cities in California have adopted storm water programs with specific standards and requirements that apply in addition to the CGP requirements. The Ventura Countywide Municipal Stormwater (Ventura MS4) Permit Development Construction Program is a great example.
If a project causes soil disturbance during construction or demolition activities and falls within any of the following categories, the site will be required to comply with the Ventura MS4 Permit.
- Small construction sites (less than 1 acre of soil disturbance)
- Large construction sites (1 acre or greater but less than 5 acres of soil disturbance)
- Over 5 acres of soil disturbance
- High risk sites (determined by site location and conditions)
All construction sites (small or large) must implement an effective combination of erosion and sediment control Best Management Practices (BMPs) to prevent erosion and sediment loss and the discharge of construction wastes for the construction site. BMP consideration is site specific and implementation will depend on site conditions and type of development. For further information regarding these BMPs please visit: Ventura County MS4 Permit, and Tables 6, 7 and 8 for BMP considerations
Regulated Under Ventura MS4 Permit
Regulated Under CA CGP
< 1 acre
Only if part of a common plan of development that is ≥ 1 acre
≥ 1 acre
High Risk Projects
If ≥ 1 acre or part of a common plan of development that is ≥ 1 acre
Understanding the Permits: Permittees are regulated under the Ventura MS4 Permit for all soil disturbance during construction or demolition activities. Permittees will also be subject to California CGP regulation if the project is greater than one acre of soil disturbance or is less than one acre but part of a larger common plan of development (greater than one acre). In this case, no additional planning is necessary since the site-specific Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) that is written to satisfy the State CGP requirements and BMP implementation considerations (refer to Tables 6-8 above) for the specific construction site can also be used to satisfy Ventura County requirements.
When ensuring stormwater compliance, it is a great idea to look into other counties and cities in California that have also adopted similar stormwater programs. For instance, the City of Santa Barbara has also implemented a program called: Storm Water Management Program (SWMP), which was created to reduce the discharge of non-point source pollutants into local creeks and the ocean by implementing six minimum control measures that are outlined and required in the California CGP. For further stormwater permit and program information please visit your local government and State Water Resources Control Board websites.
Have questions about stormwater compliance? Download Rincon's Stormwater Management Flyer or contact us.
Currently, amphibian populations all over the world are in decline. Declines are to a point that some consider the current situation as a sixth mass extinction. One of the many correlates of this decline is the presence of the disease Chytridiomycosis in amphibian populations. The Chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, was identified as the species causing Chytridiomycosis in amphibians. This fungal species infects the keratin of the skin, which is the major respiratory organ for amphibians. Infection by Chytrid fungus can cause reddening of the ventral skin as well as sloughing of skin over the entire body. On occasion, ulceration and hemorrhaging is also observed. These symptoms can ultimately lead to death. In addition to physiological effects, behavioral changes in animals infected with the fungus can occur, including lethargy, a failure to seek shelter or escape danger, abnormal posturing and the inability to turn themselves upright. These altered behaviors ultimately reduce the fitness of individuals and can increase exposure to predation.
Theories of how this disease has become so widespread are currently speculative, but it was first observed in amphibians in 1998. Susceptibility to the disease can vary among species, populations and individuals. Attention has increased around...
[click the following button to downlod the full white paper]
California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii
On September 25, 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) No. 2402, which set in motion a number of changes to the way in which the California Department of Fish and Game operates, including changes to management strategies, fee structures, enforcement goals…and the Department’s name. The Department will now be referred to as the Department of Fish and Wildlife. This change is intended to reflect the Department’s mission to conserve all
of California’s native and non-native wildlife, both game and nongame alike.
This bill also introduced the California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision that the Department has spent the past two years developing. The overall intent of the Strategic Vision is to improve the Department’s efficiency and effectiveness in the management and conservation of California’s natural resources, while providing better service to the public. The Strategic Vision incorporates five core values of stewardship, integrity, excellence, innovation, and teamwork and partnerships, each of which supports several foundational strategies:
- Engage in clear and compelling communication, education, and outreach;
- Commit to formal and informal collaboration and partnerships;
- Employ “ecosystem-based” management informed by credible science;
- Engage in broadly-informed and transparent decision making; and
- Where appropriate, engage in effective Integrated Resource Management Processes.
The promotion of “ecosystem-based” management of California’s natural resources using “credible science” is one of the core goals of the Strategic Vision. This is a sea change of sorts as the Department has historically approached resource management on a resource-specific level (e.g., for a single species). Now, the Department will consider all of the functions, processes, and species (including humans) within an ecosystem when making decisions, and they intend to use the best available scientific information available to achieve this goal. This is a noble and enlightened approach to resource management that has long been championed by resource managers who understand that a healthy ecosystem supports a wide variety of plant and animal species, not just those protected by law. However, it remains to be seen how this will play out, particularly during CEQA review of impacts to biological resources for individual projects. This new approach makes one wonder how the Department will exercise its authority over species that are not listed under the California Endangered Species Act or are otherwise granted special protections (e.g., Fully Protected species, plants designated as Rare under the Fish and Game Code, etc.). It is also unclear how the Department will approach effective management of ecosystems that have been altered, often substantially, by human use but still support sensitive species.
Another notable goal of the Strategic Vision is to encourage multi-agency collaborations, including early consultations, in order to streamline natural resource permitting processes through the development of strong relationship with other agencies, organizations, and the public. This should help bring the Department’s objectives in line with other resource agencies, as well as public stakeholders, to reduce competition and redundancy, and to promote healthy ecosystems. For developers, this should also mean a faster and more consistent permitting process. The formation of a Scientific Institute will further help this process along by improving the Department’s access to and use of sound scientific information when making decisions about impact analyses, permit approvals, and mitigation strategies. However, there is a great lack of information about a number of species and ecosystems in California, and especially about the effectiveness of many of the mitigation measures that are commonly used to offset project impacts. As such, many of the decisions the Department will make will continue to be based on little scientific information.
AB 2402 also sets out to establish new guidelines regarding renewable energy projects proposed within the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan area and establishes a Renewable Energy Resources Development Fee Trust Fund. The intent of this fund is to provide financial support for mitigation actions developed and approved by the Department. Owners/developers of eligible renewable energy projects can voluntarily elect to pay fees calculated on a per acre basis into this fund and allow the Department to implement and oversee eligible mitigation actions, rather than perform the mitigation themselves. The fees would cover everything from land acquisition, to implementation of the mitigation/restoration, to perpetual management and protection of the mitigation lands. If project proponents choose to let the Department lead the way on mitigation, then project approvals may be granted more quickly. The bill also allows the Department to contract with third parties to implement mitigation actions, which is a good thing given that the Department is already short on staff. This may also benefit environmental consultants vying for opportunities to work directly with the Department.
Implementation of the new Strategic Vision is likely to come gradually, and it is hard to say how significantly it will affect the environmental consulting world. From a resource management perspective, these changes appear to be positive, but their overall effect on development in California remains to be determined. The main regulatory drivers for the Department will likely still be through the permit processes associated with Incidental Take Permits for take of Threatened and Endangered Species (Section 2081) and Streambed Alteration Agreements (Section 1600 et seq.). A key question will be how the Department extends its reach to the larger ecosystems through these permitting vehicles. Through the CEQA environmental review process, lead agencies will still be responsible for establishing significance thresholds for impacts to biological resources. The Department’s role as a Trustee agency in the CEQA process may limit its influence when it comes to broader consideration of ecosystem impacts, how significance thresholds are defined, and what forms of mitigation are appropriate. For now, project review and approval is expected to continue as it has in the past. Please click on the button below to learn about one example of a project Rincon performed under contract with the Department.