USEPA Soliciting Comments on Guidance for Institutional Controls

Institutional controls, regulatory limits on human activity at a site, go by many names. The Department of Defense uses the term “land use controls.” ASTM E2091-00 has elected to use the phase “activity and use limitations.” Traditional real estate lawyers often think in terms of “covenants” or “easements.” Here in New Jersey, the Site Remediation Program uses the term “Deed Notice,” while the Freshwater Wetlands Permit Program has adopted the term “Conservation Restriction or Easement,” N.J.A.C. 7:7A-1.4. Whatever name they go by, institutional controls are intended to regulate human behavior and are used to supplement environmental remediation efforts by reducing the risk of unintended exposure to residual contamination. As a result, institutional controls are critical to the redevelopment of contaminated real estate and cost-effective clean-ups.

There is an ongoing debate over the effectiveness of institutional controls. Regulators, responsible parties and environmental practitioners are increasingly aware of the costs and challenges of using institutional controls. EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response has recently issued a preliminary draft second in what is intended to be a series of guidance documents governing the use institutional controls. EPA is soliciting public comment on this interim guidance document.

EPA’s November 2010 Interim Final Draft is entitled “Institutional Controls: A Guide to Planning, Implementing, Maintaining and Enforcing Institutional Controls at Contaminated Sites.” This document outlines EPA policy regarding institutional controls. The guidance document also presents a discussion of long-term site “stewardship” and enforcement options. EPA, like its state counterparts, is increasing focused on enforcement issues.

EPA is collecting comments on this guidance document. Comments must be received on or before January 14, 2011. Regardless of whether you plan to comment, environmental practitioners who advise clients on redevelopment and clean-up issues should be aware of EPA’s guidance on these issues.

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