Avoiding Liability for Environmental Damages
When purchasing property, how does one avoid liability for existing environmental damage?
Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) parties may be held strictly liable for cleaning up hazardous substances at properties that they either currently own or operate. Parties may also be held liable if they owned or operated the properties at the time of harm. Before a purchase of real property, an “all appropriate inquiries” investigation should be conducted to obtain protection from CERCLA liability. All appropriate inquiries investigations are to be conducted by a qualified Environmental Professional according to prescribed guidelines, which include site inspections, reviews of historical information and interviews with past and present owners and occupants.
If one conducts an investigation and follows other guidelines after purchase, then CERCLA liability does not attach by virtue of several defenses: