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.
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.
Many insurance policies contain a "pollution exclusion" which seeks to exclude coverage for losses arising from pollution, except in the case of a "sudden and accidental" release. "Sudden and accidental" may bring to mind a burst pipe or overturned tanker truck, but a recent decision in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York suggests that the interpretation can be much more complicated.
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.
During the summer of 2012, the DEC proposed its first substantive amendments to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) regulations since 1996. The DEC has explained that the amendments are meant to streamline the review process "without sacrificing meaningful review," but the potential impact of the proposed amendments appears to be somewhat mixed. The proposed amendments center most notably on the "scoping" process, the classification of certain types of projects, and the timeline of the SEQRA process.
Urban agriculture is exploding in cities - large and small - throughout the nation. In many cities, local land use laws and zoning ordinances are being amended or drafted to support this new-found passion. But with precious "green" space in cities (and rooftops in limited supply), many urban farmers may be forced to turn to contaminated spaces, i.e., brownfields, for their farming needs. But can these farmers ensure that these brownfield spaces are clean enough; how clean should soil be to be clean for farming?
Late last year, the First Department, in the Matter of East River Realty v. N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation, 2009 NY Slip Op 9381, 68 A.D.3d 564 (N.Y. App. Div., 1st Dep't Dec. 17, 2009), upheld a Supreme Court ruling that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("NYSDEC") cannot use a "but-for" test in determining eligibility into its Brownfield program. We reported on the Supreme Court's decision in a prior post, and refer you there for a recitation of the relevant facts and reasoning of the Supreme Court.
The First Department, in the Matter of East River Realty v. N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation, 2009 NY Slip Op 9381 (N.Y. App. Div., 1st Dep't 2009), recently upheld a Supreme Court ruling that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("NYSDEC") cannot use a "but-for" test in determining eligibility into its Brownfield program. We reported on the Supreme Court's decision in a prior post, and refer you there for a recitation of the relevant facts and reasoning of the Supreme Court.
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.