Probably the most widely used environmental standard to emerge in the last ten years is the “All Appropriate Inquiry” (AAI) Rules which dictate the level of scrutiny a prospective real property purchaser must undertake to protect itself from environmental liability due to pre-existing contamination on the property.  Since 2005, U.S. EPA had made it perfectly clear how the AAI Rules could be satisfied.  However, in a recent and somewhat bizarre rulemaking action, EPA has left purchasers wondering what really constitutes “all appropriate inquiry.”  The problem stems from EPA’s attempt to finalize changes to its AAI Rules which ties AAI compliance to another standard that has yet to be issued by a separate non-governmental entity. 

The scenario of a developer who paid cash for a parcel of land and wants to get started on development and construction prior to the closing of the construction loan is fairly common.  However, under Ohio law a pre-start construction project creates difficulties for the title insurance underwriter to insure the priority of the mortgage over mechanic’s lien risk.  This is likely to result in more time and costs to provide the required title insurance and if not handled properly, it could jeopardize the financing for the project. 

While KMK continues to grow its expertise in leading New Markets Tax Credits financing deals for many types of significant projects and as we expand our work in EB-5 financing deals, P3s and PRIs, we are surprised by the number of communities in some parts of the country still unfamiliar with the tremendous financing horsepower of NMTCs.  Here is a quick highlight of this extremely valuable financing tool.

In an action designed to spare thousands of businesses from the high costs of hazardous waste disposal, U.S. EPA recently changed its rules to exclude solvent-contaminated wipes from hazardous waste regulation, provided the wipes are cleaned or disposed of properly.  After years of extensive study, EPA concluded that excluding most solvent-contaminated  wipes from strict hazardous waste regulatory controls would not subject either human health or the environment to elevated risks.  These federal rule changes will become effective in six months. 

On December 5, 2012, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued revised guidance to memorialize its position that commercial and industrial tenants can protect themselves from contamination liability under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, or commonly referred to as Superfund) by relying on an “all appropriate inquiry” of the ownership and uses of the property, timely performed by the landlord, or by timely performing the all appropriate inquiry themselves. EPA’s prior guidance did not indicate these statutory defenses were available to tenants. 

The Ohio General Assembly recently passed a new law that will exempt new home builders from liability under the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act and its “treble damages” provisions.  The new law, known as the Home Construction Service Suppliers Act (“the Act”), became effective August 31, 2012, and applies to all “home construction service contracts” entered into after that date.  Previous court decisions have held that a new home builder is a “supplier” under the Consumer Sales Practices Act.

Ohio EPA will award $10 million by May 2012 and another $10 million by fall 2012 to private and public sector entities for clean diesel projects.  Funded by the Federal Highway Administration, the grants are targeted to improve air quality and public health in areas of Ohio not currently meeting air quality standards by reducing diesel exhaust emissions, upgrading diesel fleets and promoting the use of alternative and cleaner burning fuels.  The funds can be used for transit and school  buses, snow plows, refuse collection trucks, long and short haul trucks, locomotives and highway construction equipment.

As users of commercial real estate become more interested in sustainable practices, buying or leasing a LEED®-certified building becomes a business deal point.  How does an attorney or real estate manager determine if a particular target was properly LEED certified or has kept the certification status as advertised? 

To anyone planning soon to proceed with a brownfield environmental site assessment or an underground storage tank (UST) environmental site investigation in Hamilton County, Ohio this Legal Alert will be of interest.   

To update the earlier posting, please note that yesterday Ohio Governor Strickland signed Senate Bill 232 with an emergency clause, making the new law effective June 17, 2010.

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