Under federal law, who is potentially liable for contamination at a brownfield site?
Federal law categorizes parties who are potentially liable for cleanup costs at contaminated sites. These include owners and operators of the property, generators of the hazardous substances, and transporters of the hazardous substances. These parties are often referred to as “potentially responsible parties” or “PRPs”. Under the federal liability system, someone could be held liable for all the costs of cleanup, even if they only contributed a small portion of the waste. Also, a party who recently purchased a piece of property could, in theory, be held liable for all the costs of cleanup at a site. The federal liability system has been described as strict, joint, several and retroactive. While federal liability can extend to a broad range of parties, there have been a number of recent reforms aimed at changing and clarifying the federal liability system to encourage parties to clean up and redevelop brownfields. These efforts have taken the form of new legislation, policy statements,