Class Projects

2. Checklist EIS

Every area has some project that people would love to see completed or another that they dislike or are not sure about. I have written checklists that range from 20 to over 200 questions that can be used by a class to determine the kinds of issues that need to be investigated. The one below is a hybrid I wrote for two applications (Greenberg et al. 1979 & 2000). It has two sets of questions. The first asks if this problem might exist. If the answer is yes, then the class moves on to the follow-up questions. At the end of the exercise, the class shares how many serious issues might exist, and considers their importance, relative to the benefits of the project.

For every negative question that is listed, there is a positive one. So, for example, a new project might increase congestion or it might decrease or remain the same. But I have not written all the positive ones to conserve space. The exceptions are for some of the economic and social impacts.

The key to using this set of questions is finding a local project that the class is interested in and is close by. It can be applied to a housing development, a new facility on campus, and yet it can be applied to industrial facilities and to clean-up and reuse of former abandoned sites. It can be applied to a vacant lot that the class would like to develop. Students can create maps, use air photos, and otherwise involve themselves on the site and plan.

 

Air Quality

General questions Follow-up questions
   
1. Will air emissions directly from the development be different from the conditions of the ambient environment? 1a. Will the discharges lead to a violation of an air quality standard for example, CO, hydrocarbons, or of toxic inorganic or organic substances under federal or state regulations? 1b. Will the emissions include toxic substances?
2. Will auto or rail traffic in and out of the facility related to the activities and/or the workers  produce traffic congestion? 2a. Will traffic lead to localized CO problems? 2b. Will this congestion occur near a residential, recreation area, or school?
3. Will construction and/or operation of the facility produce a noise level above the ambient level? 3a. Will this exceed 55dB(A) outdoors, or 45dB(A) indoors, especially during the night?  3b. Will these levels be adjacent to a residential development, school, hospital, library, recreation area?
4. Will the facility and attendant activities produce an odor? 4a. Will it be apparent in a residential neighborhood, park, school, or shopping area?
5. Will the facility have a large wall, stack, air conditioners, other large structures, or a have a visible plume? 5. Will it be visible for more than ¼ mile?

 

Water Resources

General questions Follow-up questions
6. Will discharges from the activities be into the ground or surface waters?  6a. Will water emissions contain materials in sufficient concentration to lower oxygen levels in receiving surface water bodies, increase pH, salinity, temperature, solids, bacteria and toxins above the ambient?
6b. Will a national or state water quality standard be jeopardized?
6c. Will the activities contribute to eutrophication or discoloration of a water body?
6d. Will a potable water supply be degraded?
7. Will impervious cover be added as a result of the project? 7a. Will runoff increase cause an increase in substances noted in 6a above?
7b. Will the site not contain retention basins/green roofs?
8. Will the proposed site require the course of water bodes to be changed? 8a. Will this change last for longer than the construction period?
8b. Will the activity eliminate water-based ecosystems or threaten recreational opportunities? 
9. Will the demand for potable water increase?  9. Will a substantial new water-related infrastructure be required to support the activity? 

 

Solid and Semi-Liquid Waste Man

General questions Follow-up questions
10. Will the solid and semi-liquid waste stream be different from residential waste? 10a. Are these hazardous (e.g.: toxic, flammable, carcinogenic, etc.) 10b. Are they readily degradable in the environment?  
11. Will vehicles removing waste from the site travel through residential neighborhoods, sensitive commercial, recreational or institutional areas?  11a. Will these vehicles increase congestion, lead to higher noise levels, and produce undesirable odors? 

 

Ecological Quality

General questions Follow-up questions
12. Will the activity occur on a hilly or other sensitive land? 12a. Is the slope greater than 15%?
12b. Will the soils and bedrock easily erode?
12c. Will a portion of the floodplain be occupied?
13. Will plants or animals be affected by the project? 13a. Will species biomass be reduced?
13b. Will species diversity be reduced?
13c. Will rare or endangered species be threatened?

 

Economic Impacts

General questions Follow-up questions
14. Will the project impact nearby land uses? 14a. Is the project incompatible with those uses, i.e.: can it lead to serious public health or safety concerns?
14b. Will the project threaten property values?
14c. Will the project be visible from recreation areas or block scenic views?
14d. Will the project detract from historically-valuable properties?
15. Will the project contribute to overtaxing local infrastructure?   15a. Will existing water, sewer, electrical, computer-related and other systems need to be replaced or increased?
15b. Will an increase in infrastructure potentially lead to new developments incompatible with existing ones?
15c. Does the site not have plans to use green energy, water and building product reuse other available options? 
16. Will the project change public service requirements in the neighborhood? 16a. Will new police, fire, public, garbage, schools and other services be required?
16b. Can these be provided without major cost to the local government? 
17. Will jobs change in the area? 17a. Will the project reduce jobs for local residents, or will it increase opportunities? 
17b. Will these jobs changes threaten local retailing and service jobs, or increase their viability?
17c. Will the job increases be high-skill and high-wage or low-skill and low-wage ones?
17d. Will job employment training result from this activity, or will opportunities decrease?
18. Will the project change the fiscal base of the community?  18a. Will more tax-paying entities be created or enhanced as a result of the project, or will they be lost?
18b. Will more community resources be required to guarantee security and safety in the area, or will the requirement decrease?

 

Social Impacts

General questions Follow-up questions
19. Will the existing community social structure be altered? 19a. Will existing residents leave or will the quality of their lives be enhanced?
19b. Will the movers disproportionately be economically disadvantaged? Will they be replaced by more affluent individuals? 
20. Will relationships among government, non-profits, business and local citizen groups be changed? 20a. Will the project disrupt and cause stress to existing relationships, or will they build on them and add new ones?  

 


Each group (hopefully at least six groups, one for each impact category) should prepare and present a report to the class as a whole, leading to a debate about the project as well as the EIS. The written group reports can be short, 2−5 pages, and the key is to highlight the important impacts that the students believe might drive a decision about the project from the community perspective. The reports can be PowerPoints, posters, videos, again depending upon the professor’s evaluation and strengths of the students.

At least a full class period should be devoted to presenting the project analysis, and the students and professor should consider inviting other students and faculty to the presentation.

Advantages: students like this exercise and it can be applied to any nearby location. The data requirements are minimal.

Disadvantages: the professor and students have to create a project that is manageable for a class to study in a semester, which will exclude many complicated ones.

Recommendation: Better fit for less-experienced students and places where real projects are not being considered.

 

Case Study Application of the Checklist

You live in a residential area about two blocks from an old warehouse that originally was a furniture factory. The area needs a new school, and the 5-acre site is a possibility for that new school . It also has several large baseball, football, track, and soccer fields, as well as an outdoor basketball and two tennis courts. While the community as a whole would like to turn this eyesore into a valuable community asset, you wonder about some of the possible negative consequences and how they might be mitigated.

Air Quality

During ,construction, there will be demolition and then rebuilding. For about a year there will be some noise and dust that may bother the local residents. These can be managed by planning the activities so they do not interfere with residents’ use of their homes and yards.

It is important that any residual toxic material, contamination in the ground and in the building be identified and be included in the demolition plan before any major work is done on demolishing the site.

During operation, multiple school buses will arrive in the morning and depart in the afternoon, which will cause local traffic congestion and the buildup of some air pollutants immediately adjacent to the entrance of the parking lot. Periodically, sounds that will annoy some people will come from children and adults using the playing fields throughout the week. Talking with the designers about where to put the entrances and exits and how to regulate use of the land should reduce local concerns.

Water Resources

A large parking lot can produce considerable impervious cover and thereby increase the flow of gasoline-related products into nearby water bodies and underground supplies. This can be reduced by building structures that capture flow from impervious surfaces. Also, there are new forms of concrete that are pervious. The green ball fields should be an improvement over the former concrete-dominated land use.

Water use will increase once the facility is open, and a new infrastructure will be needed for water, sewage, electric, and computer use. The scheduling of these can be arranged so that there is minimum inconvenience to nearby residents.

Ecological Quality

The land is flat and no ecologically significant population lives on it. Depending upon the community preference, it might be possible to build a community garden and with sufficient funding a greenhouse on the site for community use. Other “green” attributes can be added to the plan if sufficient resources are available, or at least the facility can be designed to accommodate them in the future.

Economic Impacts

Current housing prices have been negatively impacted by the 5-acre (abandoned and fenced off) industrial-commercial site. The school and recreation facilities should help property values.

As noted above, an infrastructure will need to be added for the school and recreation facilities.

The town will need to have police, fire, garbage collection for the facilities, and a careful study of traffic patterns will need to be done in order to reduce the probability of accidents near the site: involving buses, cars, bike riders, and walkers. It may be necessary to add traffic lights, speed bumps, and other auto traffic control devices, and a bike lane should be considered, if at all possible.

The school will replace an older building elsewhere in the town. Retail services in the immediate vicinity of the school may benefit. However, jobs and retail services may decrease in the vicinity of the old one, unless a replacement function is found.

Social Impacts

With careful planning, community social capital should be improved by making the recreation facilities available to the community, and, if possible, adding a meeting room for the community in the school building. Alternatively, a separate building for the community on the site should be considered.

Project 2 derived from the following two publications:

Greenberg, M. et al. (1979). A Primer on Industrial Environmental Impact, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Center for Urban Policy Research, Rutgers University

Greenberg, M. (2000). ‘Balancing applies and oranges: factors to consider in brownfields
remediation’. In NACCHO, Community Revitalization and Public Health,  pp. 115−123. Washington, D.C.: NACCHO & ATSDR