Frequent Questions

What liability relief can EPA give to prospective purchasers of contaminated property?

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, commonly referred to as Superfund) includes several self-implementing federal liability protections for parties who own or acquire contaminated property but did not cause or contribute to the contamination. The liability protection for bona fide prospective purchasers (BFPPs) is an important and widely-applicable provision because it applies to parties who purchase contaminated property with or without knowledge of the contamination. CERCLA also provide liability protections for parties addressing certain sites in compliance with state programs. 

The vast majority of contaminated properties are addressed under state cleanup programs. Such programs often provide property-specific liability protection (for example, covenants not-to-sue or no-action letters, sometimes accompanying certificates of completion) to people and companies seeking to purchase, rent, or otherwise become financially involved in reusing contaminated property.

EPA guidance discusses situations in which the Agency exercises its discretion in taking enforcement actions in these situations. EPA also has developed a variety of property-specific informational documents for Superfund and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) properties designed to encourage cleanups and facilitate contaminated property transactions and revitalization by parties not responsible for the contamination. Generally, EPA’s property-specific documents and agreements are intended to facilitate the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated properties, where there is a realistic perception or probability of incurring Superfund or RCRA liability, and where there is no other mechanism available to adequately address the party’s concerns.

More information is available on EPA’s landowner liability protections Web page.

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