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New EPA Tool Helps Determine Environmental Liability for Superfund Sites

Source: Bloomberg: Bureau of National Affairs

(June 2018) The EPA’s new tool for determining companies’ liabilities at Superfund sites will soon be released to the public, according to the agency.

The Environmental Protection Agency is developing the tool as a result of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s efforts to speed up contaminated site cleanup and push the sites toward redevelopment. The agency anticipates the tool will help interested companies determine whether they’re eligible to purchase a contaminated site without also acquiring its environmental liabilities.

Sites on the EPA National Priorities List—also known as Superfund sites—are the most contaminated in the country.

The agency’s “Liability Issue Identification Tool” will determine whether there’s a need for the Department of Justice to approve an agreement between the EPA and potential purchasers, and whether a party is eligible to become a “bona fide prospective purchaser,” Phil Page, an attorney-advisor in the agency’s Office of Site Remediation Enforcement, said at an online EPA listening session June 13.

Bona fide prospective purchasers must first show that they are not liable for a site’s contamination before the EPA determines the party is eligible to buy it. The party must also agree not to contribute to contamination, or it may risk acquiring liability for the site. For example, the agreements can include the federal government’s promise not to sue the party for certain liabilities, which requires Justice Department approval.

The tool will help the agency make decisions based on individual contaminated sites’ histories and information about parties that are interested in buying sites.

The tool will be made publicly available on EPA’s website once it’s been finalized, the agency told Bloomberg Environment.

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