The National Institutes of Health set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pursue feasible on-site solar renewable energy as part of its sustainability initiatives. To progress in meeting these goals, NIH proposed installing photovoltaic solar panels, building a compressed natural gas storage area, and converting a central utility plant to compressed natural gas at the NIH Animal Center, a largely undeveloped 513-acre campus near the Potomac River in rural Montgomery County, Maryland. The proposed development required NEPA analysis, which NIH needed on an accelerated schedule to avoid substantial construction delays.
ERG prepared a concise environmental assessment for the proposed solar and compressed natural gas infrastructure upgrades at the site. ERG assessed the project’s potential impacts on a range of resources and demonstrated that the project would not affect cultural resources, federally listed species, or protected farmland, thus avoiding unnecessary consultations. ERG also assessed the potential hazards of transporting compressed natural gas, quantified changes in criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions, and conducted a glare analysis to demonstrate that the solar array would not interfere with aviation activities. To meet NIH’s accelerated schedule, ERG used a concise and efficient analytical process, enabling us to deliver a public-ready draft environmental assessment just six weeks after receiving approval to begin work.