PCA’s are a valuable tool for client to help owners, buyers, sellers, and/or lenders understand physical real estate assets and make informed decisions. Although ASTM has developed ASTM E2018 Standard Guide for Property Condition Assessments: Baseline Property Condition Assessment Process to provide a framework for PCA reports, the actual work performed can vary significantly. Costs can range from as little as $2,000 or well over $20,000 depending on the scope of work. Generally, with the higher fee comes greater depth of evaluation.
In an ideal world, everyone involved in a real estate transaction would have an in-depth understanding of the ASTM standard. (You can buy a copy of the standard here). However, if you haven’t had time to study the Standard, the discussion below may help you work with your consultant to promote a common understanding of your objectives and the limitations of the report.
Just in time for the New Year, ASTM E1527-13 has been officially approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The updated standard practice for the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment process will be effective from Monday December 30.
The EPA previously announced ASTM E1527-13’s compliance with all industry regulations, but the new standard was not officially recognized as meeting All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) requirements until the final ruling on December 30th. The ASTM E1527-13 standard that was adopted is unchanged from the document published in November, but now includes a preliminary statement that addresses public comments, and emphasizes EPA’s position on implementing the new standard.
Although the previous version of the standard (ASTM E1527-05) will technically continue to meet AAI, ASTM E1527-13 replaces its predecessor as the industry best practice for Phase I ESAs, and the EPA advises parties seeking to claim protection from liability under CERCLA to follow the updated ASTM E1527-13 format.
The new standard introduced a number of key changes including revised definitions for Recognized Environmental Conditions (RECs) and Historic Recognized Environmental Conditions (HREC), a new definition (Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition) as well as stronger recommendations for conducting file reviews and assessing vapor migration risk.
Many environmental professionals agree that the updates in ASTM E1527-13 clarify existing language, strengthen the deliverable and reflect good commercial and customary practice, and will thereby improve the quality of Phase I ESAs across the board.
On August 21st 2013, the EPA announced its approval of the proposed changes for ASTM E1527-13. With that, we’re now only one step away from the implementation of the updated industry standard.
The American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM International) has been in the process of updating the industry’s Standard Practice for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) to reflect recent changes in the due diligence world.
Until this announcement, the updated standard was awaiting review and approval by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has now announced that the 2013 version of ASTM E1527 is compliant with the All Appropriate Inquiries regulation. In other words, they have concluded that it meets all requirements and can be used as the industry’s Standard Practice for environmental due diligence.
Unless the EPA receives adverse comments by September 16, the revised standard will become effective as of November 2013. So far, one comment has been received that may or may not be considered adverse.
Some of the key changes of ASTM E1527-13 include:
- Revised definitions of the various Recognized Environmental Conditions (REC and HREC), and the addition of a new category: the Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition (CREC), which applies to sites where the contamination incident has received a risk-based closure, but could still pose ongoing or future obligations for the owner, such as special precautions during development or maintenance of an engineering control such as a vapor barrier. These definition adjustments will allow environmental professionals to provide greater clarity in disclosing the degree of risk.
- A greater emphasis on assessing Vapor Migration Risk and a stronger imperative for conducting regulatory file reviews. These extra requirements should improve the quality of Phase I ESAs across the board, especially for those consultants who were not already meeting these criteria. These changes will also further help clients to understand and minimize exposure to environmental risks.