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Earth Consulting Group broadening reach across region

Madison — With this month’s acquisition of a Texas environmental firm, Madison-based Earth Consulting Group Inc. broadens its scope across the Gulf region and looks to an expanding future. EarthCon, which began in 1990, is a comprehensive environmental consulting firm providing a wide range of services. The local company recently acquired Houston-based Fenchurch Environmental Services, also a full-service environmental consulting firm providing services to the real estate, petroleum and chemical industries.

“Fenchurch’s primary purpose has been the petroleum industry, and that will continue to be the focus, working with pipeline and transmission companies,” Clarke Thomas, senior project manager and president of EarthCon, said. “The petroleum industry is one of our strengths, too. I grew up in that industry. My dad worked in it, and I did too.”

He said EarthCon plans to open an office in Houston in mid-November but at this time doesn’t know how many employees will work there. Some petroleum industry work will also be done out of the Mississippi offices.

“We want to expand in the Coast region from Texas to Florida, a region that is very good because of the oil industry and rebuilding from hurricanes,” Thomas said. “We’re attracted because of development and infrastructure for the petroleum industry is being revamped. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

He foresees opening an environmental consulting office in Florida that would handle operations for the eastern Gulf region and having the firm’s Gulfport office handle matters for the western Gulf area. With 15 years experience in the environmental field, Thomas predicts the nation’s energy policies will change following Hurricane Katrina, and that energy will be a key issue in the next presidential election.

“It has more to do with economics,” he said. “We need to develop more oil and gas, and we need to help companies transfer petroleum products.”

He notes that Fenchurch and EarthCon pride themselves on being technologically advanced in an ever-demanding marketplace and on providing quick turn-around projects for clients that need to maintain regulatory compliance, especially during times of asset acquisitions and company mergers.

“Since our company philosophy is to maintain a network of highly experienced professionals, project teams can be customized rather than assigning them with available personnel,” Thomas said. “This customization process allows us to better control project costs, and in turn, transfer these savings on to the clients. We feel a strong commitment to our clients to help them meet their environmental and/or regulatory needs and do so in a cost-effective manner.”

A professional geologist, Thomas feels there has been a general refining of regulations in recent years and a trend toward regulations getting tighter. “That’s based on real data and research. It’s warranted,” he said. “We work with clients like attorneys do. We’re not a regulatory agency but have to maintain a good relationship with those agencies.”

He says the biggest environmental issue facing Mississippi in the next 10 to 20 years is air quality in the booming areas of North Mississippi and on the Coast.

“Mississippi is in very good shape compared to neighboring states. There is nothing extremely pressing at the moment because we’re not as developed as other states,” he said. “Most problems are because of rapid growth, and I think we’re ready for that as much as any state can be.”

The president of EarthCon would prefer to see a rate of slow and steady growth in Mississippi because that pace allows growth without taxing the infrastructure. “It’s preferable to a boom,” he added. “Ideally, growth would be like what’s occurred in Tupelo. They’re a pretty good model.”

EarthCon presently has 25 employees, including professional geologists and engineers. In addition to the corporate office in Madison, they have offices in Tupelo and Gulfport.

The consulting group’s services include indoor air quality/mold assessments; environmental site assessments; industrial hygiene/asbestos inspections; hazardous waste management; underground storage tank management; soil and groundwater remediation; and environmental permitting and compliance.

Thomas said EarthCon does a lot of site assessment and remediation of contaminated sites. “We determine whether or not a property is contaminated and what needs to be done. Then we manage cleanup of the site,” he said. Those are our two main things.”

Their environmental permitting and compliance service helps industries in Mississippi with any kind of air or permitting issues. “There’s always a need for these services with economic development,” he said. “There’s a lot in North Mississippi and on the Coast.”

The group also provides quite a bit of underground storage tank management for clients that include convenience stores, crop dusting in the Delta and chemical plants. Although hazardous waste management is not big in Mississippi, there is a need for that service in Texas.

“Before forming Earth Con, I was in the consulting business and felt there was a need for environmental consulting,” Thomas said. “The environmental field was and is such a dynamic field.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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