General Guidelines on All Appropriate Inquiries
EPAs Brownfields Program is designed to empower states, communities, and other stakeholders in economic redevelopment to work together in a timely manner to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields. A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. EPAs Brownfields Program provides financial and technical assistance for brownfields revitalization, including grants for environmental assessment, cleanup, and job training.
WHAT ARE "ALL APPROPRIATE INQUIRIES"?
The assessment or evaluation of a property to identify potential environmental contamination and assess potential liability for any contamination present at the property.
REASONS FOR CONDUCTING ALL APPROPRIATE INQUIRIES
Under CERCLA, persons may be held strictly liable for cleaning up
hazardous substances at properties that they either currently own or
operate or owned or operated in the past. Strict liability under CERCLA
means that liability for environmental contamination may be assigned
based solely on property ownership.
The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act (the Brownfields Amendments) amended CERCLA to provide protections from liability for certain landowners and prospective purchasers of properties who can demonstrate compliance with specific statutory criteria and did not cause or contribute to contamination at the property. CERCLA provides three types of liability protections for landowners and prospective purchasers of real property:
- Innocent landowners are persons who can demonstrate, among other
requirements, that they did not know and had no reason to know
to purchasing a property that any hazardous substance that is the subject of a release or threatened release was disposed of on, in, or at
the property. Innocent landowners must meet the criteria set forth in CERCLA §101(40).
- Contiguous property owners are persons who own property that is
contiguous or otherwise similarly situated to, a facility that is
the only source of contamination found on his property. Such persons
must demonstrate that they had no reason to know prior
to purchasing a property that any hazardous substance that is the
subject of a release
or threatened release was disposed of on, in, or at the property. Contiguous property owners must comply with the criteria set forth in CERCLA §107(q)(1)(A).
- Bona fide prospective purchasers may buy property with knowledge of contamination, provided they bought the property after January 11, 2002 and meet the criteria set forth in CERCLA §101(40).
Bona fide prospective purchasers may buy property with knowledge of contamination, provided they bought the property after January 11, 2002 and meet the criteria set forth in CERCLA §101(40).
PERSONS SUBJECT TO THE ALL APPROPRIATE INQUIRIES REQUIREMENTS
- Commercial and government entities purchasing property, and
all individuals purchasing property for non-residential use, who
may, after purchasing a property, seek protection from CERCLA
liability for releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances.
- Any party who receives a brownfields grant awarded under CERCLA Section 104(k)(2)(B) and uses the grant to conduct site characterization or assessment activities.
CURRENT (INTERIM) STANDARDS FOR CONDUCTING ALL APPROPRIATE INQUIRIES
For properties purchased after May 31, 1997, the interim standards
include the procedures of the American Society for Testing and Materials
Standard E1527 (entitled Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessment: Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment Process).
Persons who purchased property prior to May 31, 1997 must demonstrate that they carried out all appropriate inquiries into the previous ownership and
uses of the property in accordance with generally accepted good commercial and customary standards and practices.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PROPOSED RULE ON ALL APPROPRIATE INQUIRIES
- The proposed rule is a performance-based standard. The objective of the proposed standards is to conduct inquiries into past uses and ownerships of a property and visually inspect the property to identify conditions indicative of releases and threatened releases of hazardous substances on, at, in or to the subject property.
- Definition of "environmental professional." The proposed definition
includes persons who possess sufficient specific education, training,
and experience necessary to exercise professional judgment to
develop opinions and conclusions regarding the presence of releases
or threatened releases to the surface or subsurface of a property.
The proposed definition includes persons who:
- hold a Professional Engineer's or Professional Geologist's license or registration and have three years of full-time relevant experience.
- are licensed or certified by a state, tribe or the federal government to perform all appropriate inquiries.
- have a baccalaureate or higher degree from an accredited institution of higher education in a relevant discipline of engineering, environmental science, or earth science and five years of relevant experience.
- as of the date of promulgation of the final rule, have a Baccalaureate
or higher degree and the equivalent of ten years of relevant
- Interviews of current and past owners and occupants. In the
case of abandoned properties, must interview one or more neighboring
- Review of historical records for a property on previous owners
- Review government records concerning waste management practices.
- Conduct a visual on-site inspection of the property.
- Specialized knowledge or experience of property owner.
- Relationship of purchase price to value of the property, if
- Commonly known or reasonably ascertainable information about
- Degree of obviousness of the presence or likely presence of
contamination at the property, and the ability to detect the contamination
by appropriate investigation.
- The proposed rule includes no requirements to conduct sampling and analysis.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
For additional information on EPA's Brownfields Program, visit the EPA Brownfields Web site at: http://www.epa.gov/brownfields.