Air quality regulatory requirements can be complicated. Depending on the complexity of your facility, your company may want to hire an air quality consultant to manage an air quality compliance project, and you need to know what questions to ask an air quality consulting firm. Trying to manage air quality compliance and regulations by yourself can be risky if you are unfamiliar with the terrain: applying for the wrong permit could end up costing a lot of money in unnecessary permitting requirements, or fines for noncompliance.
An air quality consultant can help you understand federal, state, local and Tribal air requirements. Air quality consultants can also help you estimate emissions, model impacts, and complete air permitting applications and develop permitting strategies. Businesses and agencies need to know how they are affected by air quality regulations and what they must do to attain air quality compliance. The job of the air quality consultant is to answer these questions and provide a cost effective solution.
Here are 5 things to consider when hiring an air quality consultant. We call them the 5 C’s of best practices.
Has the air quality consultant worked with your type of business or agency in the past?
There are regulatory differences between federal, state, local and tribal air quality standards. It is important to ask the air quality consultant if they have experience with the regulations in your location. Another factor to consider is the air quality consultant’s experience with the types of pollutants in your area. The regulatory distinctions are often based on the type of pollutants associated with with common source types in a specific part of the country.
An air quality consultant must have extensive experience with both private sector businesses and public sector government agencies. You want a consultant who can use their expertise to evaluate and recommend solutions that are in your best interest while also being fully compliant with air quality compliance rules and regulations.
Does the air quality consultant have solid references from other clients and projects?
An air quality consultant must have a good reputation in their industry, and they will always provide a list of professional references. It is important to contact these references and ask questions about how the air quality consultant helped that client achieve air quality compliance.
Next, ask about the air quality consultant’s educational background, any specialized training, certifications and licensing, any awards or grants received, and to which professional associations they belong. You may also want to ask how long they have been in practice, where did they work before they joined this air quality consulting firm, and how much practical experience they have dealing with your specific air quality issue.
Does the air quality consultant communicate in a clear and concise manner?
Communication is key in any project, and it is especially important when you are dealing with air quality compliance and regulatory agencies. The air quality consultant interacts with all levels of personnel within your company or agency, and must be able to explain the regulatory implications. Some consultants become so technical that the business people do not understand what is happening in the project, and it is important that the air quality consultant be able to communicate in a way that all parties understand the project scope. You want a consultant who is responsive, listens to your concerns and can put themselves in your place as a facility manager with operations to support; a consultant who understands your unique situation.
What are the fees to hire an air quality consulting firm?
An air quality consultant will provide a detailed scope of their services, and a breakdown of the cost for each service. You need to understand what services you are paying for and how much they cost. What about unexpected fees? For example, after an air permit application has been prepared, you may find out there are additional permitting or applications required. The air quality consultant will provide a fee schedule as part of their quote.
While financial cost is an important factor, also consider other values of hiring an air quality consultant. The value they bring may not be immediately seen because the cost of not completing an air quality compliance project can affect the company’s future existence. At the same time, the value in hiring a good air quality consultant may show up as additional profits gained because of your strategic planning for capital investments. Remember that failing to obtain the proper permits to attain air quality compliance can cost more in the long run.
What’s in the contract with an air quality consultant?
The contract between you and an air quality consulting firm can be a formal detailed document or an informal letter of agreement. No matter which type of agreement you use, make sure the contract terms are in writing. The contract must specify the exact nature of the work product to be done and provide an estimated date of completion. It must clearly state the standard prices for each service, and the method of determining fees for additional expenses, if any are incurred.
The contract will also show the method and schedule for payments. If tasks are divided among more than one air quality consultant, the contract should outline which air quality consultant is doing what part of the project. Expectations for behavior, delivery timelines for each phase of the project and customer satisfaction are also helpful points to consider when writing the contract. Remember that both parties must sign the agreement.
When your agency or company is ready to hire air quality consultants who follow these 5 C’s of best practices, remember to ask these questions when you are evaluating an air quality consulting firm.