Environmental Desktop Report

An Environmental Desktop Report is a limited due diligence report. This report is a low-cost tool to measure environmental risk, in preliminary form. In fact, it applies mostly to properties with an unknown history, and presumably moderate to low environmental risk. Consequently, this basic level of assessment has no regulatory standard and is typically requested on parcels without obvious contamination sources. For example, a vacant lot in a commercial zone, without a partially known historical land use, may warrant a desktop report to fully determine the past use. Moreover, an environmental desktop report economically evaluates the potential for contamination, with consideration of adjacent properties. Updated November 5, 2023.


A Desktop Review is a limited tool, intended for use by property owners and purchasers to independently evaluate the potential for subsurface contamination risk at a property. No definitive or legal conclusions and recommendations can be made using such limited background information. A Desktop Review is NOT a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment, and it does NOT intend to meet the guidelines of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard Practice for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments.

Environmental Desktop Report = Limited Environmental Due Diligence 

Purchasers, brokers, investors, and lenders who do NOT require an ASTM-compliant Phase I Site Assessment, can choose from any of the Desktop Report Packages listed below. Moreover, they can request a customized Environmental Desktop Report that encompasses special requirements. A Desktop Environmental Report generally applies to properties with a history of low-risk activities. For instance, a commercial property strictly used as office space, that is adjacent to a gasoline station. However, for riskier properties and CERCLA liability protectiona Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Report is more applicable.

Laws & Certification 

An Environmental Desktop Report does NOT conform to the EPA’s All Appropriate Inquire (AAI), nor the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) Innocent Land Owner (ILO) defense. Moreover, this practice does not address the requirements of any state or local laws, nor any federal laws. Furthermore, Desktop Environmental Reports do not intend to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with a property.


Clients must know that there is always a possibility that an environmental condition may still exist within a property, that was not reasonably identifiable within the limited scope of a Desktop Review. As a result, consultants generally cannot (and do not) warrant or guarantee the conclusions within these limited reports. In fact, statements made within environmental desktop reports are generally opinions and observations, with a basis of the available public information (and reasonable judgment). Most consultants post that they are not to be construed as representations of fact and make proper notes of the limitations, deletions, and data-gaps within. Lastly, Clients must understand that the findings and conclusions within a Desktop Environmental Report are strictly limited to the time and date of the evaluation.

Available Desktop Report Packages

Consumers seeking an environmental desktop report have multiple options for the scope of work. Depending on the site-specific details, some options or combinations of datasets may be more resourceful than others. Ultimately, Geo Forward recommends consulting an environmental professional to determine the proper Desktop Environmental Report Package for any project.

1).  Government Database & Files Review

This package includes a file review and database review of various government regulatory agencies, basic vicinity & site maps, along with an executive summary geared toward environmental risk.

2).  Historical Documents & Database Report

This limited report includes a review of fire insurance maps, historical aerial photos, historical topographic maps, city directories, and a review of all government agencies with oversight. A limited report is prepared with basic vicinity & site maps, and an executive summary regarding environmental concerns.

3).  Records Search with Risk Assessment 

This package specifically meets the environmental policy requirements for limited reports for Small Business Administration lenders.

4). Custom-combination reports of Any of the Above Packages, as per Client’s Request

Per the request of the Client, any combination of the data sources mentioned above can be combined into an Environmental Desktop Report.