How much does an Environmental Impact Study cost?

What to expect when seeking quotes from environmental consultants…

Aster Environmental Services

1/8/20242 min read

As described in a previous article (link), an EIS is a standard requirement of municipalities and other regulatory agencies, requested of development applicants when development is proposed in or adjacent to sensitive natural heritage features. As discussed here, the timeline for completing an EIS is highly variable, and so is the potential cost. This latter consideration is likely the most important question you ask when seeking to retain an environmental consultant. Costing to complete an EIS is subject to several variables, the most important being the scale of the development proposal and the nature and sensitivity of the natural features associated with the study area. These factors are used to determine the amount of work required to adequately characterize the natural environment.

But who decides what represents an adequate study? This is determined through a process known as ‘scoping’ which typically includes a negotiation between the environmental consultant and the agency that requested the study. The result is the establishment of an EIS ‘terms of reference’, that will outline the requirements for the study, including the type of required field surveys and level of detail required in the impact analysis. Many agencies establish a standard set of EIS guidelines to serve as the starting point for scoping an EIS. Examples of existing agency EIS guidelines are listed in the links below:

Once the terms of reference are established, your environmental consultant should be able to provide a reasonably firm cost estimate for the EIS. However, applicants should be aware that the level of agency consultation required to reach this stage is rarely undertaken prior to signing a contract with your consultant. Therefore, most quotes from environmental consultants are provided as an educated estimate, typically inclusive of disclaimers stating that additional work may be required following agency scoping. If you receive a quote that is substantially lower than others, it is prudent to clarify with the bidder if the estimated cost is intended to cover provisional items. If not, ask your consultant for an estimate of potential costs for provisional items that may arise following the agency scoping discussion.

Notwithstanding the above, an average EIS will typically cost in the range of 5-8 thousand dollars for relatively simple development proposals. Costs for larger-scale projects can increase substantially from here. Aster Environmental Services is committed to providing fair and transparent EIS pricing to our clients. Our project proposals will include the estimated cost for the project, as well as a list of potential provision costs that may arise following agency scoping. We are always happy to review our quotes with prospective clients, including discussing options for cost savings where feasible.