August 24, 2010

One of the harsh realities for business owners and businesses is that they face potential environmental liability on a number of different fronts.

When purchasing property, businesses need to be aware of past uses of property that may have resulted in contamination.  When conducting operations, it is prudent for businesses to ensure they have all the required permits and that they are following all applicable environmental regulations.  If a government inspection reveals violations of environmental standards, a business may face civil penalties and costly corrective actions.

Past waste disposal practices may also be a source of liability for businesses.  If wastes were disposed at a landfill or unpermitted facility and evidence can be found linking a business to a site that is the source of contamination, that company may be found to be responsible for a cleanup. Liability under federal and state Superfund laws is joint, strict and retroactive.  Investigations and cleanups of dump sites can be expensive.

In addition to cleanup costs, penalties for noncompliance and third party claims, a business may be asked to pay natural resources damages in connection with releases of contaminants or pollutants.

What are natural resource damages?  Who can make a claim for these damages?

Natural resources damages are a specific class of damages that are authorized by federal and state environmental laws.  When pollution or contamination has harmed or destroyed natural resources – wildlife, fisheries, wetlands and other natural resources – federal or state agencies that are designated as trustees of these natural resources may seek compensation for such losses.

In recent years, federal agencies and certain states have become more aggressive in asserting natural resource damage claims.  The federal government, for example, may be seeking natural resource damages as a remedy for the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In Minnesota the government agencies who serve as trustees for the State’s natural resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, are placing a new emphasis on taking action to recover natural resource damages.  For details about natural resources damages claims in Minnesota, please see an article from the August 21, 2010 edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press at: http://www.twincities.com/ci_15846488?IADID=Search-www.twincities.com-www.twincities.com.

The environmental law attorneys at Hessian & McKasy’s Environmental Law Attorney Practice Group assist our clients – businesses, individuals and units of local government – in addressing all aspects of environmental liability.  For more information on the professional services we provideto our clients, please visit the Environmental Law Attorney Practice Group at:http://www.enviroattorney.net/practice/professional_services.php.

The views contained within this entry and on this website are my own and do not constitute those of Hessian & McKasy, P.A.

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