376.82 Eligibility criteria and liability protection.—
(1) ELIGIBILITY.—Any person who has not caused or contributed to the contamination of a brownfield site on or after July 1, 1997, is eligible to participate in the brownfield program established in ss. 376.77-376.85, subject to the following:
(a) Potential brownfield sites that are subject to an ongoing formal judicial or administrative enforcement action or corrective action pursuant to federal authority, including, but not limited to, the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. ss. 9601 et seq., as amended; the Safe Drinking Water Act, 42 U.S.C. ss. 300f-300i, as amended; the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. ss. 1251-1387, as amended; or under an order from the United States Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to s. 3008(h) of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as amended (42 U.S.C.A. s. 6928(h)); or that have obtained or are required to obtain a permit for the operation of a hazardous waste treatment, storage, or disposal facility; a postclosure permit; or a permit pursuant to the federal Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984, are not eligible for participation unless specific exemptions are secured by a memorandum of agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to paragraph (2)(g). A brownfield site within an eligible brownfield area that subsequently becomes subject to formal judicial or administrative enforcement action or corrective action under such federal authority shall have its eligibility revoked unless specific exemptions are secured by a memorandum of agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to paragraph (2)(g).
(b) Persons who have not caused or contributed to the contamination of a brownfield site on or after July 1, 1997, and who, prior to the department’s approval of a brownfield site rehabilitation agreement, are subject to ongoing corrective action or enforcement under state authority established in this chapter or chapter 403, including those persons subject to a pending consent order with the state, are eligible for participation in a brownfield site rehabilitation agreement if:
1. The proposed brownfield site is currently idle or underutilized as a result of the contamination, and participation in the brownfield program will immediately, after cleanup or sooner, result in increased economic productivity at the site, including at a minimum the creation of 10 new permanent jobs, whether full-time or part-time, which are not associated with implementation of the brownfield site rehabilitation agreement; and
2. The person is complying in good faith with the terms of an existing consent order or department-approved corrective action plan, or responding in good faith to an enforcement action, as evidenced by a determination issued by the department or an approved local pollution control program.
(c) Potential brownfield sites owned by the state or a local government which contain contamination for which a governmental entity is potentially responsible and which are already designated as federal brownfield pilot projects or have filed an application for designation to the United States Environmental Protection Agency are eligible for participation in a brownfield site rehabilitation agreement.
(d) After July 1, 1997, petroleum and drycleaning contamination sites shall not receive both restoration funding assistance available for the discharge under this chapter and any state assistance available under s. 288.107. Nothing in this act shall affect the cleanup criteria, priority ranking, and other rights and obligations inherent in petroleum contamination and drycleaning contamination site rehabilitation under ss. 376.30-376.317, or the availability of economic incentives otherwise provided for by law.
(2) LIABILITY PROTECTION.—
(a) Any person, including his or her successors and assigns, who executes and implements to successful completion a brownfield site rehabilitation agreement, shall be relieved of further liability for remediation of the contaminated site or sites to the state and to third parties and of liability in contribution to any other party who has or may incur cleanup liability for the contaminated site or sites.
(b) This section shall not be construed as a limitation on the right of a third party other than the state to pursue an action for damages to property or person; however, such an action may not compel site rehabilitation in excess of that required in the approved brownfield site rehabilitation agreement or otherwise required by the department or approved local pollution control program.
(c) This section shall not affect the ability or authority to seek contribution from any person who may have liability with respect to the contaminated site and who did not receive cleanup liability protection under this act.
(d) The liability protection provided under this section shall become effective upon execution of a brownfield site rehabilitation agreement and shall remain effective, provided the person responsible for brownfield site rehabilitation complies with the terms of the site rehabilitation agreement. Any statute of limitations that would bar the department from pursuing relief in accordance with its existing authority is tolled from the time the agreement is executed until site rehabilitation is completed or immunity is revoked pursuant to s. 376.80(8).
(e) Completion of the performance of the remediation obligations at the brownfield site shall be evidenced by a site rehabilitation completion letter or a “no further action” letter issued by the department or the approved local pollution control program, which letter shall include the following statement: “Based upon the information provided by (property owner) concerning property located at (address), it is the opinion of (the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or approved local pollution control program) that (party) has successfully and satisfactorily implemented the approved brownfield site rehabilitation agreement schedule and, accordingly, no further action is required to assure that any land use identified in the brownfield site rehabilitation agreement is consistent with existing and proposed uses.”
(f) Compliance with s. 376.80(5)(i) must be evidenced as set forth in that paragraph.
(g) The Legislature recognizes its limitations in addressing cleanup liability under federal pollution control programs. In an effort to secure federal liability protection for persons willing to undertake remediation responsibility at a brownfield site, the department shall attempt to negotiate a memorandum of agreement or similar document with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, whereby the United States Environmental Protection Agency agrees to forego enforcement of federal corrective action authority at brownfield sites that have received a site rehabilitation completion or “no further action” determination from the department or the approved local pollution control program or that are in the process of implementing a brownfield site rehabilitation agreement in accordance with this act.
(h) No unit of state or local government may be held liable for implementing corrective actions at a contaminated site within an eligible brownfield area as a result of the involuntary ownership of the site through bankruptcy, tax delinquency, abandonment, or other circumstances in which the state or local government involuntarily acquires title by virtue of its function as a sovereign, or as a result of ownership from donation, gift, or foreclosure unless the state or local government has otherwise caused or contributed to a release of a contaminant at the brownfield site.
(i) The Legislature finds and declares that certain brownfield sites may be redeveloped for open space, or limited recreational, cultural, or historical preservation purposes, and that such facilities enhance the redeveloped environment, attract visitors, and provide wholesome activities for employees and residents of the area. Further, the Legislature finds that purchasers of contaminated sites who are nonprofit conservation organizations acting for the public interest and who did not cause or contribute to the release of contamination on the site warrant protection from liability.
(j) Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter, chapter 403, other laws, or ordinances of local governments, a nonprofit, charitable, federal tax-exempt, s. 501(c)(3) national land conservation corporation which purchases title to property in the state for the purpose of conveying such land to any governmental entity for conservation, historical preservation or cultural resource, park, greenway, or other similar uses shall not be liable to the state, local government, or any third party for penalties or remediation costs in connection with environmental contamination found in the soil or groundwater of such property, provided that such corporation did not cause the original deposit or release of the environmental contaminants, and provided the department and local pollution control program and responsible parties have access to the land for investigation, remediation, or monitoring purposes.
(k) A person whose property becomes contaminated due to geophysical or hydrologic reasons, including the migration of contaminants onto their property from the operation of facilities and activities on a nearby designated brownfield area, and whose property has never been occupied by a business that utilized or stored the contaminants or similar constituents is not subject to administrative or judicial action brought by or on behalf of another to compel the rehabilitation of or the payment of the costs for the rehabilitation of sites contaminated by materials that migrated onto the property from the designated brownfield area, if the person:
1. Does not own and has never held an ownership interest in, or shared in the profits of, activities in the designated brownfield area operated at the source location;
2. Did not participate in the operation or management of the activities in the designated brownfield area operated at the source location; and
3. Did not cause, contribute to, or exacerbate the release or threat of release of any hazardous substance through any act or omission.
(l) When a property, including a brownfield site, escheats to a county, the county is not subject to any liability imposed by this chapter or chapter 403 for preexisting soil or groundwater contamination due solely to its ownership. However, this paragraph does not affect the rights or liabilities of any past or future owners of the escheated property and does not affect the liability of any governmental entity for the results of its actions that create or exacerbate a pollution source. The county and the Department of Environmental Protection may enter into a written agreement for the performance, funding, and reimbursement of the investigative and remedial acts necessary for a property that escheats to the county.
(3) REOPENERS.—Upon completion of site rehabilitation in compliance with ss. 376.77-376.85, no additional site rehabilitation shall be required unless it is demonstrated:
(a) That fraud was committed in demonstrating site conditions or completion of site rehabilitation;
(b) That new information confirms the existence of an area of previously unknown contamination which exceeds the site-specific rehabilitation levels established in accordance with s. 376.81, or which otherwise poses the threat of real and substantial harm to public health, safety, or the environment in violation of the terms of ss. 376.77-376.85;
(c) That the remediation efforts failed to achieve the site rehabilitation criteria established under s. 376.81;
(d) That the level of risk is increased beyond the acceptable risk established under s. 376.81 due to substantial changes in exposure conditions, such as a change in land use from nonresidential to residential use. Any person who changes the land use of the brownfield site thus causing the level of risk to increase beyond the acceptable risk level may be required by the department to undertake additional remediation measures to assure that human health, public safety, and the environment are protected to levels consistent with s. 376.81; or
(e) That a new release occurs at the brownfield site subsequent to a determination of eligibility for participation in the brownfield program established under s. 376.80.
(4) ADDITIONAL LIABILITY PROTECTION FOR LENDERS.—
(a) The Legislature declares that, in order to achieve the economic redevelopment and site rehabilitation of brownfield sites in accordance with this act, it is imperative to encourage financing of real property transactions involving brownfield site rehabilitation plans. Accordingly, lenders, including those serving as a trustee, personal representative, or in any other fiduciary capacity, in connection with a loan, are entitled to the liability protection established in subsection (2) if they have not caused or contributed to a release of a contaminant at the brownfield site.
(b) Lenders who hold indicia of ownership of a parcel within a brownfield area primarily to protect a security interest or who own a parcel within a brownfield area as a result of foreclosure or a deed in lieu of foreclosure of a security interest and who seek to sell, transfer, or otherwise divest the parcel via sale at the earliest practicable time are not liable for the release or discharge of a contaminant from the parcel; for the failure of the person responsible for brownfield site rehabilitation to comply with the brownfield site rehabilitation agreement; or for future site rehabilitation activities required pursuant to a reopener provision established in subsection (3) where the lender has not divested the borrower of, or otherwise engaged in, decisionmaking control of the site rehabilitation or site operations or undertaken management activities beyond those required to protect its financial interest while making a good faith effort to sell the site as soon as practicable and when an act or omission of the lender has not otherwise caused or contributed to a release of a contaminant at the brownfield site.
(c) The economic incentives that were granted to a person responsible for site rehabilitation by state or local governments shall not accrue to a lender who obtains ownership of the brownfield site by one of the methods described in this subsection. The economic incentives are abated during the lender’s ownership, but they may be transferred and reinstated upon the sale of the brownfield site.
History.—s. 6, ch. 97-277; s. 5, ch. 98-75; s. 182, ch. 99-13; s. 13, ch. 2000-317; s. 3, ch. 2004-40; s. 71, ch. 2007-5; s. 6, ch. 2008-239.