Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition (CREC) is a proposed new term for the ASTM E1527 standard for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs). The Controlled REC concept was introduced to address contaminated sites that have received risk-based regulatory closure, where no further remediation is required but residual contamination still exists at a site and the property is subject to activity and use limitations or “AULs.” These sites, where contamination is controlled but could still pose ongoing or future obligations on the owner (such as special precautions during construction or grading activities), have been a source of some confusion to the environmental due diligence industry with regards to how they should be classified. The Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition or “CREC”, if accepted, would be a distinct classification from Historical Recognized Environmental Condition (HREC) and Recognized Environmental Condition (REC). The environmental professional would be required to list any CRECs identified in the findings and conclusions section of the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment report.
The ASTM E1527-05 Standard for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments has been accepted by the EPA as meeting the requirements of All Appropriate Inquiry. The latest revisions to the ASTM E1527 were done in 2005, and in 2012 the standard is currently under review for another round of potential changes. The Phase I Environmental Site Assessment scope of work is not anticipated to change dramatically and many of the potential changes serve simply to clarify language. However several potential changes could impact the way Phase I ESAs are conducted or written.
For example, a potential new category of Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) has been proposed: the Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition (CREC), which would apply to risk-based closures of contaminated sites. If adopted, this new term would impact the way findings and conclusions are discussed in the Phase I ESA Report, and could potentially impact the report user’s understanding of environmental risk. Certainly the term would require some education of the industry.
Another potential change to the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment process is an explicit requirement for regulatory file reviews on adjacent properties. Many environmental consultants already perform these file reviews during the Phase I ESA when deemed appropriate due to high risk information being identified at the adjacent properties (such as a leaking gas station). However, an explicit mandate for these file reviews could impact the cost and timing of the Phase I Report, as well as the environmental consultant’s liability.
A decision will have to be made in 2013 whether to adopt any changes to the E1527 standard, or renew the standard as is.