Articles Posted in Contaminated Property

california-water-resources-control-board-300x220Last week, the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) gave notice of public opportunity to comment on its proposed April adoption of the Water Quality Control Policy for Low-Threat Underground Storage Tank Case Closure (Low-Threat Closure Policy). This should come as welcome news for the thousands of underground storage tank (UST) sites in California because the Low-Threat Closure Policy will hopefully make it easier to obtain closure. 

The Low-Threat Closure Policy recognizes that many petroleum release cases pose a low-threat to human health and the environment. The policy’s purpose is to establish consistent California statewide case closure criteria for low-threat petroleum UST sites. To potentially qualify for closure, the site must satisfy eight general criteria (applicable to all sites), as well as media-specific criteria as it pertains to groundwater, vapor intrusion to indoor air and direct contact, and outdoor air exposure. Below is a brief description of each of these criteria.

The general criteria are as follows:

  • Site must be in a service area of a public water system:  The policy recognizes that while new water supply wells are unlikely to be installed in the shallow groundwater near former UST release sites, it is difficult to predict whether this will always be the case, particularly in rural areas that are undergoing new development. Therefore, the policy is limited to areas with available public drinking water supplies. Continue reading

Contaminated Land30 years ago tomorrow, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), which is commonly known as the Superfund law. CERCLA, which Congress amended in 1986, was created to address the most contaminated properties in the United States and to provide federal authority to respond to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances. Congress passed CERCLA in response to public outcry from a series of environmental disasters such as Love Canal – where in 1978, carcinogens from long-ago abandoned chemical operations began percolating from the ground, causing residents of the New York town to experience miscarriages, birth defects and countless other health problems.

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Gas StationSince 1989, one bright spot for owners of property in California contaminated by petroleum releases from underground storage tanks has been monies available from the State of California Petroleum Underground Storage Tank (“UST”) Cleanup Fund (the “Fund”). Monies in the Fund are provided by a storage fee paid by petroleum UST owners through the permit process based upon the volume of throughput.

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In September of 2008 EPA launched its RE-Powering America’s Land initiative with the objective of developing renewable energy on current and formerly contaminated properties. As a result of its 2009 meetings with stakeholders from the renewable energy industry, landowners, state and local governments and others, EPA recently took a significant step toward implementing this initiative with the release of its two-year draft management plan.Wind Turbines

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Landowners, some reeling after years of costly regulatory scrutiny and enforcement actions, often find themselves at a loss with what to do with Superfund sites, brownfields and former landfills and tapped-out mines. Well, on Feb. 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offered at least one possible solution: develop renewable energy facilities on these tainted lands. (Click here to read.)

The idea would appear to appeal to landowners stuck with contaminated property they can not otherwise develop, and to green energy advocates who are constantly seeking new, easily developed spots for their solar, wind and biomass projects. Often the latter face a long and excruciated permit process. So is the EPA killing two birds with one stone? Perhaps.
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