The health threats posed by physical contact with contaminated soil or groundwater are well known. But increasingly, state and federal regulators are recognizing that harmful vapors from such contamination can be drawn into nearby buildings and pose a threat to the occupants. Known as soil vapor intrusion, this threat can come from undiscovered contamination beneath a building, or even from the remnants of previously remediated soil or groundwater.
The Court of Appeals of New York recently held that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("DEC") did not exceed its authority or act contrary to state law in enacting certain regulations with respect to remedial programs implemented to clean inactive hazardous waste disposal sites.
On February 18, 2010, New York's highest court overturned the DEC's denial of an upstate New York development's application for admission into the State's Brownfield Cleanup Program ("BCP" or "Program"). In the Matter of Lighthouse Pointe Property Associates, LLC v. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 2010 NY Slip Op 1377, 2010 N.Y. LEXIS 35, (Ct. App. Feb. 18, 2010). As the first Brownfield Cleanup Act ("BCA") case to reach the Court of Appeals, this decision may have implications for how New York State courts interpret the BCA, how DEC makes eligibility determinations, and therefore for an easier entry into the Program.
The latest installment in the Brownfields Cleanup Program (BCP) eligibility saga involves a recent October 2008 case from the Supreme Court in New York County, East River Realty Company, LLC v. NYSDEC, __ N.Y.S.2d ___, 2008 WL 4694535 (Sup.Ct. New York Cty. 2008), holding that DEC cannot use a "but-for" test when determining whether environmental contamination at a site "complicates" the redevelopment of that site.
In following our previous post concerning judicial review of DEC decisions to deny proposed developments entry into the Brownfield Cleanup Program, we discuss the New York County Supreme Court decision of HLP Properties, LLC v. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, No. 08-115969, __ N.Y.S.2d __, 2008 N.Y. Slip Op. 28337 (N.Y.Sup.Ct. New York Cty. Sept. 12, 2008).
In 2003, the New York Legislature passed the Brownfield Cleanup Program, ECL § 27-1401 et seq. The benefits of the Brownfield Cleanup Program ("BCP") are many: the developer receives a liability release from the State following DEC oversight during the cleanup of the property. The most coveted benefit, however, is a tax credit of up to 22% based not merely on the cost of cleanup but also on the cost to redevelop the site. A few New York City developers have reaped enormous rewards on $100+ million developments.