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Find an Environmental Consultant

A competent environmental consultant can help define a client’s problem and develop solutions that are protective of human health and the environment, in compliance with environmental regulations, and cost effective. Consultants specialize in areas such as permitting, design and engineering, construction, sampling and testing, waste management, due diligence for property transactions, abatement, and cleanup. Their skills, experience, and track records vary widely. It is common for a consultant to manage all aspects of a client’s project, including establishing subcontracts with environmental contractors, law firms, laboratories, and manufacturers.

IDEM no longer maintains a list of environmental consultants and instead offers this guidance, which is not intended as legal advice and should not be taken as such.

  • Understand responsibility:
    • When hiring a consultant to help meet environmental obligations, it is important to remember that the hiring entity (or client) remains ultimately responsible for achieving compliance with environmental laws and rules and cannot completely transfer those obligations. The client should consider requiring the consultant to indemnify the client from errors and omissions, and the client should ensure that the consultant has professional liability insurance.
  • Determine scope of work:
    • Make a comprehensive list of the services needed and the expected results so potential consultants can provide an accurate cost and time estimate for completing the project. If there is uncertainty about what the project entails and how it should proceed, get help. Keep in mind that environmental investigations often encounter unexpected situations and new information that may change the scope of work.
  • Research consultants:
    • Research and compile a list of potential consultants from online resources, industry trade organizations, and references from colleagues.
  • Request proposals:
    • Send a request for proposals (RFP) to several consultants who appear qualified. There is no rule on how many RFP to send out, but the goal is to receive at least three comparable proposals. The RFP should include:
      • A description of the site.
      • Discussion of the scope of the project and expected deliverables.
      • Time constraints for completing the work.
      • Directions for accessing relevant records and getting access to the site, for bidders.
      • A request for a statement of qualifications, staff resumes, and references. The statement should describe the consultant’s mission, values, area(s) of expertise, markets served, professional qualifications, and experience doing the kind of work requested, and provide specific examples.
      • A request for unit rates and cost estimates (itemized costs will facilitate comparison of the proposals).
      • Directions for submitting proposals and project contact(s).
  • Review proposals:
    • Keep in mind questions such as:
      • Has the consultant worked on similar projects?
      • How much work does the consultant subcontract, and who are the subcontractors?
      • Is the consultant knowledgeable about federal, state, and local environmental laws and rules?
      • How well does the consultant communicate in writing?
      • Is the consultant insured and, if necessary, bonded?
      • Is the consultant currently involved or has the consultant ever been involved in lawsuits regarding work performance?
      • Beware of bids that are significantly lower than those of competing consultants and overly optimistic time schedules. Be wary of “hard sell” approaches, conflicts of interest, or anything that causes unease. If something in the proposal is unclear, ask for written clarification.
  • Conduct interviews:
    • Identify the most qualified consultants, and conduct interviews to clarify their proposals and meet the individuals who will be working on the project. Example questions include:
      • Who will be assigned to the project and what is their training and experience?
      • Will the assigned project team be available for the duration of the project?
      • What knowledge of environmental laws and rules do the team members have?
      • What tasks will be subcontracted and to whom? What is the subcontractor’s experience with similar projects? How will subcontracted services be charged?
      • What is your company’s current workload?
      • What percentage of projects did your company complete on time and within budget?
  • Check references:
    • Checking references is an important part of the selection process. Before choosing a consultant, it is critical to talk with businesses the consultant cites as references. Example questions include:
      • Were you satisfied with the consultant’s work?
      • Did you have any concerns about the consultant’s performance or fees?
      • What specific staff members were assigned to your project team?
      • Was your project completed on time and within budget?
      • Did you encounter any unexpected delays or staff turnover? If so, were these handled to your satisfaction?
      • Did the consultant have to redo any part of your project because it wasn’t done adequately the first time?
  • Make the selection:
    • When choosing a consultant, don’t automatically go with the lowest bid. The knowledge gleaned from the consultant’s proposal, the interview, and reference checks should provide enough information to select the right consultant for the job.
  • Get it in writing:
    • To avoid misunderstandings, establish a written and legally enforceable contract with the hired consultant. Consider enlisting the assistance of a competent attorney before entering into a contract. Be sure to review all the terms and conditions of the contract, and consider these questions:
      • Does the contract stipulate the exact amount of payment for the exact services rendered?
      • Does the contract establish the terms under which the contract will be paid?
      • Does the contract allow for any unspecified fee such as administrative or processing fees?
      • Does the contract clearly establish all services that will be performed by the consultant?
      • Does the contract allow for additional activities to be undertaken and billed to the client without additional written permission?
      • Does the contract provide for a change in the contract amount based on contingencies like additional meetings or “excessive” contact?

This guidance is not an exhaustive list of issues to consider. Remember that in any endeavor, common sense should be the rule. The hiring entity (or client) is ultimately liable for achieving environmental compliance. If dealings with an environmental consultant seem irregular, it is in the client’s interest to fully investigate and correct the situation.

More Information and Assistance

Contact the applicable IDEM program area and/or IDEM staff member(s) who are providing guidance on specific environmental requirements. For technical and confidential compliance assistance on a wide array of environmental topics, contact IDEM’s Compliance and Technical Assistance Program.

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