Properties that are currently contaminated or have a history of contamination are often referred to as “brownfields.” Federal and state laws impose strict liability for the cleanup of contamination on these properties on the current owners, even if those owners had nothing to do with causing the contamination. Because of this potential liability, selling brownfields properties can be very difficult. Purchasing such properties can be fraught with danger. Although some people think that leasing a brownfields property instead of buying it can solve the problem, certain leases arrangements, especially ground leases, can impose the same liability on the tenant as purchasing the property would.
Brownfields transactions are a central part of Peter’ Niemiec’s practice. He has written and spoken widely on this topic. Because of his experience in both the real estate and environmental fields, he can handle all aspects of such transactions, avoiding the need for the clinet to hire separate real estate and environmental counsel.
Over the course of more than twenty years, Peter has structured transactions on brownfields properties ranging from corner gasoline stations to major industrial facilities He has represented buyers and sellers. He has advised lenders who were considering making loans secured by such properties. He has helped clients close deals that many thought could not be done.
Among the brownfields deals he has been involved with are the following:
- Representation of a major national retailer in acquiring old manufacturing sites for redevelopment into “big box” retail sites.
- Sale of former oil field sites for residential development.
- Representation of a developer in acquiring old manufacturing sites for redevelopment.
- Both the purchase and sale of former gasoline station properties for redevelopment into new retail or mixed retail/residential use.
- Both the purchase and sale of properties in known Superfund areas, including transactions involving properties that were known sources of contamination in area-wide Superfund sites such as the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys in the Los Angeles Basin.
Peter’s extensive experience in this area covers virtually every issue that typically comes up in a brownfields deal, including directing environmental due diligence (Phase I’s, Phase II’s, and risk analyses), negotiating with government agencies over cleanup levels and “no further action” letters, negotiating access agreements for other parties to perform cleanup, environmental insurance, financing issues, releases and indemnities, and cleanup cost recovery issues.