As most folks in the commercial real estate industry know, the Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser exemption from liability under the federal Superfund law is a very useful tool. Accordingly, a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is standard practice for nearly every purchase of commercial real estate because it helps to satisfy EPA's "All Appropriate Inquiries" requirement for obtaining BFPP status and avoiding the often harsh liability associated with Superfund.
Everyone's heard of the phrase, "Be careful what you wish for," but Sunoco, Inc. might be ready to coin a new phase, "Be careful what you warrant."
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.
EPA has just extended to tenants the Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser ("BFPP") protection, by which Congress previously exempted certain prospective owners from harsh Superfund liability. Even where the landlord loses its BFPP protection, the new EPA enforcement guidance memo allows tenants to hold onto it, assuming the tenant can meet certain requirements.
A federal court in New York recently decided that the migration of subterranean contamination onto a neighboring property was not, by itself, a sufficient basis to hold a neighboring landowner jointly liable for remediation costs under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act ("CERCLA").
Congress enacted the Superfund Act, whose formal name is the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA, in 1980 to promote the clean up (remediation) of properties, typically abandoned landfills or other sites, that had been contaminated by the disposal of hazardous materials. To further this goal, Congress cast a wide net and imposed strict liability for all "Potentially Responsible Parties" (PRPs) who contributed to the contamination at a site. See 42 USCS Sec. 9607(a).
In our series highlighting the tools of environmental due diligence in real estate transactions, we've covered the basics of (1) what is "environmental due diligence," (2) what are the important environmental provisions you need in a purchase and sale contract, and (3) what environmental investigations and audits you need to undertake after signing the contract. In our final post, we'd like to discuss what to consider when selecting and working with the environmental consultant who, with the help of the environmental attorney, will be performing much of the due diligence work on the property.
So now you've selected your property and have a proper purchase and sale agreement in place; what do you do next?
In a sale or loan transaction the most important pre-closing covenant is that the borrower or seller will maintain the property in compliance with all environmental laws and will re-affirm accuracy of the representations and warranties as of the closing date.