Pennsylvania Act 2/Brownfields Remediation
In the 1990s, a shift in approach began on the State and Federal levels which resulted in regulations and policies that stressed voluntary cleanup actions rather than a punitive approach affecting site remediation. It become apparent that development was focusing on previously undeveloped properties in order to avoid the liability associated with contaminated sites. This trend had numerous undesirable consequences including: urban decay, sprawl, and most importantly, the failure to investigate or remediate sites that had been previously developed. The new approach was generally termed Brownfields, as it was designed to encourage development of previously developed sites rather than virgin “Greenfields.”
The regulations and policies encouraged Brownfield development by offering financial incentives, through the use of Risk-based cleanup standards and by offering liability protection upon completion of satisfactory site remediation rather than the “No Further Action” (NFA) letter previously issued. Federal Brownfields programs focus on financial incentives, while State programs tend to encourage brownfield development through flexible remediation goals and legal assurances that protect property owners in addition to providing financial incentives.
Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling and Remediation Standards Act (Act 2)
Pennsylvania Brownfields Legislation includes the following:
- The Pennsylvania Land Recycling and Remediation Standards Act (Act 2)
- The Economic Development Agency, Fiduciary and Lender
- Environmental Liability Protection Act (Act 3)
- The Industrial Sites Environmental Assessment Act (Act 4)
The legislation promotes voluntary partnerships among local businesses, government, financial institutions, and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The cornerstones of these Acts are based on evaluation of health and environmental risks, relief of liability and financial assistance. The legislation directs that cleanup options be based on the risk that contamination poses to public health and the environment, including emphasis on current and future uses of the site and potential for off-site contaminant migration.
GeoServices works closely with the DEP and our clients to evaluate current site conditions and potential future uses of the property. The complete evaluation of a site’s situation assists parties seeking liability release in selecting the appropriate and most cost-effective remedial approach.
Parties seeking liability release for a site may utilize the following cleanup standards:
- Statewide Health Standard
- Site-Specific Standard
- Background Standard
GeoServices understands the processes necessary to satisfy the requirements for each of these cleanup standards, and provides the technical expertise to collect and evaluate the data necessary to reduce risks posed by contamination.
Environmental Evaluation and Remediation
Our approach is to document site-specific conditions and clearly identify overall project goals and development schedules. The environmental evaluation/remediation is conducted in phases to optimize the investigation and control project costs. The technical work is guided by the DEP’s Pennsylvania Land Recycling Program Technical Guidance Manual, common industry standards such as those described by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), as well as years of experience working with a variety of sites, clients and regulatory agencies.
Environmental evaluation is only one part of the overall land recycling process. We work with our clients throughout the entire Act 2 process to assure that the selected remedy is not only in compliance with the legislation, but compatible with the client’s goals and limitations. Throughout this process, GeoServices keeps our clients abreast of investigative activities, provides status updates, and works hard to determine which remedial alternatives are best suited to the site and clients budget.
Since cleanup of a site under Act 2 is based upon the present and future risk associated with the property, there are numerous options for obtaining Act 2 Final Closure in addition to complete remediation. Contamination may be left in place if remediation is impractical or excessively costly. Protection against risk when contaminants remain is commonly assured by one of the following:
- Uniform Environmental Covenants – such as deed restrictions or deed notices
- Environmental Institutional Controls – such as asphalt capping, fencing, and vapor barrier
- Post Remedial Care Plans – to address the maintenance of institutional controls