An EPA Inspector General report focuses on weaknesses in EPA’s oversight of investigations of brownfields sites for potential environmental contamination. According to the February 14, 2011, report, EPA does not review “all appropriate inquiries” reports submitted by persons receiving assessment grants under the agency’s brownfields program to ensure that the assessments comply with federal requirements. Rather, the agency relies on environmental professionals conducting the all-appropriate-inquiries investigations to self‑certify that requirements are met.
The all-appropriate-inquiries process, set forth in 40 C.F.R. Part 312, evaluates a property for actual or potential environmental contamination and assesses potential liability for contamination. The process must be conducted before a property is acquired and provides liability protection under CERCLA to landowners, contiguous property owners and prospective purchasers.
The report recommends that EPA (i) establish accountability for all-appropriateinquiry reports, (ii) develop a plan to review the reports to determine their compliance with documentation requirements, (iii) “establish criteria to determine whether noncompliant grantees should return federal grant money,” (iv) upgrade the definition of “environmental professional” to eliminate substandard all-appropriate-inquiry reports, and (v) strengthen the rule to require sampling before a site is purchased.