As indicated in our latest blog post, here, on US EPA’s adoption of the new ASTM E1527-13 Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process, US EPA has taken the step necessary to make it clear that the  2013 Phase I standard should dictate future landowner efforts to meet the all appropriate inquiry (“AAI”) requirements to achieve liability protection under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”).

In December 2013, US EPA issued a final rule solidifying the agency’s adoption of the 2013 standard by inserting a reference to ASTM E1527-13 into the AAI Rule (40 CFR part 312) to accompany the 2005 standard, effectively permitting the use of either standard for AAI compliance.  On Monday, US EPA proposed to clean up the AAI Rule to remove the reference to the old ASTM E1527-05 standard in order to alleviate any confusion as to which standard governs Phase I Environmental Site Assessments going forward.

Importantly, ASTM E1527-05 is still AAI-compliant for properties acquired between November 1, 2005 and the effective date of the proposed rule.  To smooth the transition to the new standard and give parties time to complete investigations under the old standard, US EPA expects to delay the effective date of the rule until one year from when the final rule is published.

As we wrote here, a key change to Phase I investigations under ASTM E1527-13 includes an assessment of the potential for vapor encroachment into buildings at the subject property, and the inclusion of a new definition to characterize contamination where a chemical has been released and the cleanup allows some residual contamination to remain in-place at the property – this is now a “Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition.”

US EPA proposes no other changes to the AAI Rule and the proposed rule is currently undergoing the 30-day comment period.