Wisconsin’s Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) program allows a person to clean up a property and receive an exemption from future liability for historic contamination. Once cleanup is complete, the VPLE Certificate of Completion (COC) provides liability protection for the owner of the property. It is also transferrable to future owners. Since 1995, the DNR has issued 186 COCs. Eighty-three voluntary parties are currently pursuing a VPLE COC.
Recent concerns over emerging contaminants, particularly per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) chemicals in Wisconsin and nationally have prompted the DNR to evaluate the potential for historical discharges of PFAS and other emerging contaminants at properties enrolled in the VPLE program that are pursuing a COC.
Continue reading “DNR Interim Decision on Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) Program and Emerging Contaminants”
Counties, cities, villages and towns, along with RDAs, CDAs, other local governmental units, can fairly easily obtain environmental liability exemptions, civil immunity, and cost recovery authority in Wisconsin when taking title to unproductive/abandoned industrial and commercial properties.
These protections are explicitly authorized by multiple sections in Wis. Statutes Ch. 292, and are designed to enable local governments to take action to stimulate redevelopment activities at contaminated or potentially contaminated properties when the private market is not providing enough capital and economic activity to achieve the desired level of community improvement on its own.
Remediation and Redevelopment Program staff are available to help local government officials understand and use these robust statutory tools, as well as identify financial assistance opportunities for environmental investigation and cleanup work. The DNR’s Green Team meetings are a good way to get started on your first, or next, redevelopment project.
The DNR publication Local Government Environmental Liability Exemptions in Wisconsin (RR-055) provides an overview of several local government environmental liability exemptions, and lists types of documentation that the DNR typically requests to confirm that the exemption is in effect.
The RR Program recently updated a fact sheet on the state’s off-site environmental liability exemptions, When Contamination Crosses a Property Line: The Off-Site Environmental Liability Exemption – Wis. Stat. §§ 292.12 and 292.13, Rights and Responsibilities of Off-site, Affected Property Owners, RR-589 Please recycle old versions of this DNR document and reference to the updated document moving forward.
The update also includes content from and replaces, a publication titled, What Homeowners, Lenders and Realtors should know about Off-site Contamination, RR-927. More information about the off-site exemption, and RR Program contacts, are available on the DNR’s web page, Off-site contamination – contamination that crosses property lines.
Chemicals that have seen industrial use for decades are now beginning to be better understood by scientists and others concerned with their potential impacts to human health and the environment. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFASs) are a class of emerging contaminants known to impact environmental media, such as groundwater, soil, sediment and surface water.
Additional information about PFASs can be found on the EPA’s web page, the ITRC’s collection of fact sheets and through the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
When discharged to the environment, PFAS compounds meet the definitions of hazardous substance and/or environmental pollution under Wis. Stat. § 292.01. Discharges of PFASs to the environment are subject to regulation under Wis. Stat. § 292 and the requirements for immediate notification, investigation, and remediation in Wis. Admin. Code chs. NR 700 through 754.
Continue reading “Wisconsin DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment Program Has Authority to Regulate Emerging Contaminants – including, PFAS Compounds”
Last November, the Governor signed 2017 Act 70, which modified Wis. Stat. ch. 292 (Wisconsin’s “Spill Law”) to help encourage brownfield cleanup and redevelopment. The Act was based on recommendations made by the Brownfields Study Group in its 2015 report, Investing in Wisconsin.
Modifications to the Spill Law include:
- Clarification that the off-site liability exemption applies if there is vapor intrusion impacting an off-site property (Wis. Stat. § 292.13(1m))
- Changing the definition of “property” as it is used for Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE). The new definition is “…an area of real property that is included in an application to obtain an exemption under this section, made up of a legally identifiable parcel or legally identifiable contiguous parcels created in compliance with applicable laws.” (Wis. Stat. § 292.15(1)(c))
- Specifying the process for changing the footprint for the VPLE “property” after an application has been submitted if the “property” is subdivided, combined with other properties or otherwise changed. (Wis. Stat. § 292.15(2)(at))
The DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment Program’s role with brownfields redevelopment is not directly affected by many of the other provisions in the Act, such as changes to tax incremental districts (TID) requirements for environmental remediation; expansion of the property-assessed clean energy (PACE) financing option to include brownfield revitalization projects; expanded options to address tax delinquent brownfields and other provisions.
Program staff will make necessary changes to VPLE documents and webpages and work with the program’s Land Recycling Team to identify other actions needed to implement the changes.
More information on the bill, including descriptions of the provisions in the Act, can be found in Senate Bill 173.