October 6, 2014

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EPA Issues Changes to Due Diligence Requirements for AAI Under CERCLA

2005 ASTM No Longer Accepted Effective Oct. 6, 2015

On October 6, 2014, EPA issued a final rule mandating the use of the 2013 standard, ASTM E1527-13, for conducting Phase I Environmental Site Assessments for satisfaction of All Appropriate Inquiries ("AAI") under CERCLA. [Click here for a copy of EPA's preamble to the final rule, published in the federal register today].

In December 2013, EPA adopted a new AAI rule allowing use of the updated 2013 standard and continuing to allow use of the 2005 standard, ASTM E1527-05. The reference to both standards was widely criticized as a source of confusion in due diligence requirements. Prospective owners/operators were strongly encouraged to use the 2013 standard; however, they had flexibility to decide whether to use the 2013 or 2005 standard for each particular site.

Today's revised AAI rule removes the reference to the 2005 standard, thus allowing use of only the 2013 standard for entities performing AAI. The new rule does not modify the 2013 standard; it merely mandates the use of it for AAI.

Notably, the new rule will not become effective until October 6, 2015, giving prospective property owners/operators and consultants one year to complete site assessments that are currently being performed consistent with the 2005 standard. Though EPA's expectation is that entities will no longer use the 2005 standard and transition to the 2013 standard, the EPA's rule allows use of the 2005 standard for property acquired prior to the effective date of October 6, 2015.

The primary differences between the 2013 and 2005 standards are:

1. The 2013 standard requires evaluation of the potential for the release of subsurface vapor contamination (vapor migration), and more clearly identifies vapor migration as a recognized environmental condition. The 2005 standard did not explicitly require an analysis of vapor migration

2. The 2013 standard clarifies existing and adds new definitions, which as a result, revises the potential scope of assessment. For example, the term "Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition" was added to the standard to include past releases that have been addressed but allow contamination to remain in place.

3. The 2013 standard requires a more extensive review of agency files and historical site documents.

Overall, the 2013 standard is considered more comprehensive and thorough based on today's realities and is touted by EPA in its final rule preamble as "the consensus-based, good customary business standard."

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