Superfund Task Force Listening Session on Recommendation 21: Encouraging PRPs to Integrate Reuse Opportunities into Cleanups

Superfund Task Force Listening Session on Recommendation 21: Encouraging PRPs to Integrate Reuse Opportunities into Cleanups

On June 11, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held the fourth of its listening sessions on the recommendations of its Superfund Task Force to improve the implementation of the federal Superfund program. This session focused on Recommendation 21, which is to encourage Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) to integrate reuse opportunities into their cleanup plans. The EPA presenters began by providing the background of the Superfund Task Force Report and its five overall goals: (1) expediting cleanup and remediation; (2) reinvigorating PRP cleanup and reuse; (3) encouraging private investment; (4) promoting redevelopment and community revitalization; and (5) engaging partners and stake holders. The EPA presenters identified why PRPs may have an incentive for incorporating reuse into their cleanup plans. They also posed two questions: (1) why do PRPs not routinely consider re-use when performing site investigations and cleanups; and (2) what options and incentives can EPA use to assist PRPs in integrating re-use into their decision-making process? A copy of the slide presentation accompanying EPA’s oral presentations is available here. EPA then opened the floor for questions and comments from the participants in the listening session. There was only one comment made during the call: a lawyer from Northwestern Pritzker...

Budget Act Makes Changes to Federal Brownfield Program

Budget Act Makes Changes to Federal Brownfield Program

As noted in last week’s blog, the recently-passed Consolidated Omnibus Appropriations Act made a number of modifications to the federal brownfield program. That blog focused on the expansion of lessees’ ability to qualify for Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser (BFPP) status (and thereby obtain protection from Superfund liability). However, the Act made other changes that are of interest to brownfield site owners, developers, states, municipalities, and potential applicants for federal brownfield grant money. These modifications are found in Division N of the legislation, entitled “the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act of 2018” (“BUILD Act”). They include the following: eliminating state and local government Superfund liability for sites acquired through seizure or otherwise in connection with law enforcement activity. State and local governments were previously protected only with respect to sites acquired “involuntarily”; eliminating the restriction for grants to petroleum sites that a site must be “relatively low risk” as compared with other petroleum-only sites in a state; allowing grants to be used for the cleanup of publicly-owned properties even if the public owner is not a BFPP; increasing the maximum federal brownfield grant per site from $200,000 to $500,000, which limit can be waived by EPA up to a...

Federal Budget Act Expands Lessees’ Ability to Claim Superfund Exemption as Bona Fide Prospective Purchasers

Federal Budget Act Expands Lessees’ Ability to Claim Superfund Exemption as Bona Fide Prospective Purchasers

The recently-enacted Consolidated Omnibus Appropriations Act made headlines in extending funding for federal government programs through September 30, 2018. Less widely noted were the myriad changes wrought by the Act to the administration of many federal programs. Among the programs affected was the federal brownfields program. The major substantive change in the Act was the expansion of the Bona Fide Potential Purchaser (BFPP) protection for lessees of properties. BFPP status exempts from Superfund liability parties who become owners or operators of facilities after the discharge of contaminants, so long as they are unrelated to parties responsible for the discharge, conduct “all appropriate inquiries” (e.g., a Phase I environmental site assessment) prior to closing, and observe certain other protocols post-closing. Until now, lessees were precluded from qualifying as a BFPP unless the property owner was also a BFPP. Now, if a lessee performs the required actions, it can obtain BFPP protection irrespective of whether its landlord is similarly exempted. This change will have a major impact on the liability exposure of lessees, particularly those who are developing and operating properties under long term ground leases. Most of the Act’s other brownfield-related provisions concern the funding of federal brownfield grants. Non-profit organizations are now...

New York DEC Finalizes Definition of “Underutilized” Under Brownfield Cleanup Act Amendments 0

New York DEC Finalizes Definition of “Underutilized” Under Brownfield Cleanup Act Amendments

On July 29, 2016, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) announced that it had finalized the definition of “underutilized” for purposes of the 2015 Brownfield Cleanup Act Amendments and eligibility for redevelopment tax credits. The final rule closely tracks DEC’s March 9, 2016 proposed definition, which attracted numerous comments, mostly adverse, from members of the public and the regulated community.

Proposed Definition of “Underutilized” for Brownfield Cleanup Act Amendments Draws Many Comments 0

Proposed Definition of “Underutilized” for Brownfield Cleanup Act Amendments Draws Many Comments

Numerous organizations and individuals have submitted comments on the proposed definition of “underutilized” published by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) on March 9, 2016, pursuant to the 2015 Brownfield Cleanup Act Amendments. The Amendments require NYSDEC to propose a definition for “underutilized,” one of the few remaining ways for New York City sites to qualify for tangible property tax credits under the State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP). As such, this definition is seen by many as crucial to the continued viability of the BCP as a cleanup mechanism for brownfield properties in New York City.

NYSDEC Proposes New Definition of “Underutilized” for Tangible Property Tax Credits at New York City Brownfield Sites 0

NYSDEC Proposes New Definition of “Underutilized” for Tangible Property Tax Credits at New York City Brownfield Sites

On March 9, 2016, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) proposed a new definition of an “underutilized” site for purposes of claiming tangible property tax credits for sites in New York City under the New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP). As noted in prior blogs, the 2015 amendments to the BCP established new restrictions on the ability of sites in the five boroughs of New York City to obtain tax credits related to expenditures for site improvements. One of the criteria which would allow a site to qualify for such credits was that the site be “underutilized.” That term was left undefined by the Legislature, with instructions to NYSDEC to finalize a definition by October 1, 2015.

NYSDEC Hears Comments on Proposed Definition of “Underutilized” 0

NYSDEC Hears Comments on Proposed Definition of “Underutilized”

On July 29, 2015, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) conducted a public hearing on its proposed definition of an “underutilized” site for purposes of the 2015 Brownfield Cleanup Act Amendments. As indicated in a prior blog, this definition is critical because being “underutilized” is one of the few ways that a New York City brownfield site can qualify for tangible property credits under the 2015 Amendments.

New York State Governor and Legislature Reach Agreement on Reform and Extension of Brownfield Cleanup Program 0

New York State Governor and Legislature Reach Agreement on Reform and Extension of Brownfield Cleanup Program

Governor Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the New York State Senate and Assembly have reached an agreement with respect to extension and reform of the State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP), a significant development in view of impending expiration of tax credit eligibility on December 31, 2015. The essential elements of the deal are as follows: All sites currently in the Program, and those which are admitted prior to December 31, 2022, will be eligible for tax credits if they obtain their Certificates of Completion (COCs) by March 31, 2026.

Governor Cuomo Proposes Major Changes to State Brownfield Cleanup Program 0

Governor Cuomo Proposes Major Changes to State Brownfield Cleanup Program

In his budget proposal unveiled on January 21, Governor Andrew Cuomo included recommendations that would significantly change the New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program. Among the revisions he has recommended to the Legislature are the following: The deadline for sites to obtain their Certificates of Completion (COCs) in order to be eligible for tax credits under the Program would be extended until December 31, 2025. However, sites currently in the Program will need to obtain their COCs by December 31, 2017 to qualify for the existing level of tax credits. For sites admitted to the Program after April 2015, tangible property (development) credits would be available only for sites in environmental zones, sites where the projected cost of cleanup exceeds the value of the property as clean, or sites containing affordable housing. For sites meeting these criteria, tax credits would potentially be increased from current levels. However, sites not meeting these criteria would be ineligible for any type of development-related tax credit.

5th Circuit Rules that Sale of Chemical is Not Disposal 0

5th Circuit Rules that Sale of Chemical is Not Disposal

On January 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that the sale of a useful chemical did not make the seller an “arranger for disposal” under Superfund, even where seller knew that some of that chemical would be spilled during its use. Vine Street LLC v. Borg Warner Corp., 2015 BL 8885, involved the sale of dry cleaning machines and PCE, a dry cleaning fluid, by Norge, a predecessor of Borg Warner. Norge equipped the machines with water separators, which it knew were not 100% effective. It continued to work with the dry cleaner to reduce spillage by modifying the separators’ design. Nonetheless, contamination resulted, and Vine Street, a successor landowner, sued Borg Warner for contribution to the cost of cleanup. The District Court held Borg Warner liable for 75% of the cost of cleanup based on its knowledge that some contamination resulted from these sales.