Pennsylvania’s Act 2 and Brownfields

BAI has helped clients with contaminated properties since the company’s founding over 30 years ago, and even prior to the nation’s focus on “brownfield” redevelopment and Pennsylvania’s innovative Land Recycling Program (Act 2). 

What is Pennsylvania’s Act 2?

Pennsylvania’s Act 2 is a program that was enacted in 1995 to facilitate the cleanup of former industrial sites and return them to productive use.  Act 2 establishes environmental remediation standards for cleanups. By completing these voluntary cleanups, the Remediatior (i.e. the property owner or other responsible party) can obtain a “release from legal liability”.

The Act serves several purposes by:

  • Creating a realistic framework for setting cleanup standards
  • Providing special incentives for developing abandoned sites
  • Releasing responsible parties from liability when cleanup standards are met
  • Setting deadlines for Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) action
  • Providing funding for environmental studies and cleanups

The Act encourages the redevelopment of contaminated commercial and industrial sites with existing roads, sewers, water lines, and utilities, which is often more cost-efficient than building new infrastructure. This strategy also helps to preserve undeveloped farmland, forests, and open areas for future generations.

Act 2 describes the submission and review procedures used at sites using each of the three types of cleanup standards, therefore providing a uniform process for all sites statewide. Uniformity makes it easier for companies and consultants to prepare submissions and follow through the steps necessary to remediate a site.

The Need for Land Recycling

Past environmental policies in Pennsylvania had a tendency to disincentivize the private cleanup of old industrial sites, sometimes referred to as brownfields. In fact, in years past, new buyers (despite not being involved in the contamination of the property.) were sometimes at greater risk for incurring full responsibility for a site cleanup.

Previous policies tended to promote never-ending liability and discouraged private firms, lenders, and even public redevelopment authorities from getting involved. Because of this, the positive aspects of an old industrial site, such as its location and available infrastructure, were frequently negated by the threat of huge, unknown costs and liability for an environmental cleanup of the site. Too often, developers have opted for new properties as an alternative to old industrial sites with contamination problems. This has led to urban sprawl and the resulting loss of farmland, forests, and open space across Pennsylvania.

Four cornerstones of Act 2:

  1. Uniform cleanup standards based on health and environmental risks
  2. Standardized review procedures
  3. Release from liability
  4. Financial assistance

The Act also sets standards, by law, that are protective of human health and the environment. It provides potential developers with clear cleanup standards based on risk, not a moving target in a negotiated agreement, and provides an end to liability when that cleanup standard is achieved. It also can provide a release of liability to property owners that had contaminated properties and remediated the sites.

How BAI Can Help

Many have described the Act 2 program’s strength as being the wide range of options that allow a unique remedial strategy to be tailored to your site.  However, to the “Act 2 novice”, all those options can be overwhelming to decipher, but BAI can help you navigate these options.

BAI has successfully cleaned up, decontaminated and closed numerous industrial and municipal waste sites across Pennsylvania. Our project-management capabilities extend from the investigative phase through the selection of appropriateremedial technologies, implementation and regulatory approval.  By working with you and others, including your attorneys, regulatory authorities, contractors, local municipalities, adjacent landowners and other interested parties, we can assist you in finding a strategy to clean up contaminated properties while balancing costs and schedule. 

Contact us today to learn more.