History

Environmental Science Associates (ESA) was founded in California, shortly before enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)—landmark laws that have greatly influenced environmental planning and analysis across the country.

Founded in 1969 by three scientists, the Foster City, California firm quickly became known for its high-quality CEQA documentation and science-based environmental impact analysis. In 1974, ESA made history by producing the first environmental impact report on a work of art – Christo’s Running Fence EIR, now part of the Smithsonian. In the early 1980s ESA moved its headquarters to San Francisco. The firm prepared the landmark San Francisco Downtown Plan EIR and subsequent EIRs on many of the city’s signature structures and shoreline—shaping the city’s skyline while protecting its character.

Since then, we’ve evolved into a broad-service environmental science and planning firm committed to sustainability, effective problem-solving, and delivering integrated solutions throughout the U.S. We assist clients in the earliest phases of project conception, through environmental review and regulatory approval, to project implementation and follow-through.

As the fields of environmental science and community planning have grown more complex and controversial, we’ve stayed in the forefront by deepening key technical service capabilities. Beginning in the late 1970s we augmented our organic growth through a number of selective, strategic acquisitions and mergers.

Madrone Associates, a northern California natural resource management firm, was acquired in 1979. In 1999, TSI, an aviation planning and environmental firm located in Tampa Bay, Florida, brought additional technical expertise focused on air quality and noise. In 2004, ACC, a California integrated organics and recycling firm, joined ESA. Adolfson Associates, a 50-person environmental consulting firm headquartered in Seattle, Washington, merged with ESA in late 2006. Philip Williams & Associates (PWA), a premier environmental hydrology firm, joined us in late 2010. Vigil-Agrimis, a leading provider of design services in the Western U.S. joined us in 2013. PCR Services Corporation, a longstanding environmental consulting firm headquartered in Santa Monica, California joined ESA in February 2016. 

In 1994, we instituted an employee stock ownership program or ESOP as a means of sharing equity more broadly throughout the firm, and in 2000 we became 100% employee-owned. We are now one of the largest independently owned environmental consulting firms headquartered on the West Coast. This distinction ensures that we not only have the depth of technical expertise to tackle any environmental issue, but also that each and every employee stands behind ESA’s work and our commitment to exceptional client service.

Ranked as one of the Best Environmental Firms to Work For by the Environmental Business Journal and CE News, our skilled managers, scientists, planners, and engineers provide the kind of critical thinking, objectivity, dedication, and responsiveness that is essential to a sustainable future, good environmental stewardship, and successful project completion.