2020 Environmental Real Estate Issues

Five companies agreed to pay a total of $7.2 million to settle natural resource damage (NRD) claims. The US Department of Interior (DOI) alleges that historical releases from a refinery complex have damaged creeks, wetlands, floodplain areas, and uplands near Lake Erie. The companies include the current owner of one refinery and the successor to the owner of a refinery that closed in 1981.

Of the $7.2 million, approximately $900,000 is reimbursement for NRD assessment costs; DOI will have $6.3 million for restoration.

Five Consent Decrees
Each company’s settlement will be in a separate Consent Decree. Payments range from $87,500 to $2.3 million; three of the companies will pay $2 million or more.

Draft Restoration Plan
DOI has published for comment a draft Restoration Plan, which summarizes the process for determining NRD, identifies four alternatives for how it will use the $6.3 million, and designates one preferred alternative.

The Restoration Plan indicates NRD resulted from “sustained losses to ecological services due to contamination.” Specifically, “surveys of benthic invertebrates and fish…found significant mortality and presence of physical anomalies…indicating injury has occurred to biological resources.”

The preferred alternative includes restoration of 23 acres of alluvial islands, establishment of an interior protected area for sediment deposition, shoreline enhancements to reduce erosion, and plantings of native plants, shrub, and trees.

To see DOJ’s press release on the settlement, which includes links to get the Consent Decrees and draft Restoration Plan https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/five-companies-agree-pay-72-million-settle-allegations-natural-resource-damages-watershed