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Real Estate Lawyer and Environmental Attorney Serving the Los Angeles Area

Standardized real estate forms may not address all of your needs when buying or selling commercial real estate, and in some cases, there may be environmental issues that trigger enormous liability. Peter Niemiec is an attorney who can handle both real estate and environmental issues related to property transactions. Often, environmental laws are complex and may seem counterintuitive. However, a Los Angeles environmental lawyer and real estate attorney who knows how to interact effectively with regulatory personnel may be more effective than a business person working alone. Peter Niemiec has more than three decades of experience as an environmental attorney and more than two decades of experience as a transactional real estate lawyer. He provides a high level of personal attention and a wide range of perspectives obtained in numerous different roles.

Environmental Law

Mr. Niemiec has experience handling issues related to contaminated property cleanups, underground tank problems, superfund issues, business transactions and compliance, defense of enforcement actions, legislative and regulatory development, and asbestos issues.

Brownfields are properties that have a history of contamination or that are currently contaminated and are underutilized because of the perceived remediation costs and considerations related to liability. Brownfield properties may carry significant potential liability, and buying such a property may be dangerous. Even lease agreements may be more challenging because the tenant faces liability with certain lease arrangements.

Addressing the problems presented by brownfields property can be very complex. First, the extent of the contamination must be determined. This process often begins with a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, a historical and records review performed pursuant to ASTM E1527-13. Other times, the potential for contamination will come to light as a result of government requests or data from nearby properties. Once a potential problem is identified, additional studies that can include soil, soil gas, groundwater and indoor air quality will follow. These studies are commonly known as Phase II reports.

Once the extent of the problem is known, cleanup involves more than just getting an estimate from a cleanup contractor. The contamination condition will have to be reported to government environmental agencies. If the process was not started by a government request for information, a decision will have to be made about which environmental agency or agencies should receive the report. Depending on the location of the property and the nature of the problem, there may be a choice between a number of state and local agencies. Whichever agency is chosen will most likely be the agency that determines how much additional investigation will be required and what kind of cleanup is necessary.

The choice of an oversight agency can also affect the kinds of liability protections that are available once the cleanup is completed. Agreements pursuant to the California Land Reuse and Revitalization Act of 2004 (CLRRA), usually entered into with the California Department of Toxic Substance Control, have the potential to offer the most comprehensive liability protection, but are not always the best way forward.

Paying for the investigation also presents a number of issues. In some cases, there may be government funds available to defray the cost. More frequently, owners of brownfield sites look to the parties who caused the contamination, known as “potentially responsible parties,” or “PRPs.” This can involve litigation or a negotiated cleanup agreement. Insurance policies, especially pre-1980 policies, may also be another source of funds for cleanup.

Finally, the sale of a brownfields property requires careful structuring, especially where the sale takes place either before or during cleanup. Such agreements must address the responsibilities of the parties for managing the cleanup and interacting with the government agencies, allocation of potential liabilities to the government and private third parties, where relevant, allocation of risks related to the cost and time required for the cleanup, and possible use of the property during cleanup.

Mr. Niemiec has extensive experience in guiding his clients through this process successfully, often leading to productive redevelopment of such brownfields properties.

Real Estate Law

Our firm also handles purchases and sales, commercial and industrial leases, and brownfields transactions. Buying or selling commercial or industrial real estate is a different matter from buying or selling a home. The lease terms when the property is leased may affect the value of the investment and how easy the property is to manage. It is generally insufficient to rely only on a real estate broker, who may not understand how to accurately phrase lease terms to make sure that your agreement says what you want it to say. After escrow is opened, changing the deal may be challenging, so your purchase and sales agreement must capture all of your concerns from the start.

Mr. Niemiec has experience structuring deals for clients buying and selling properties that have contamination issues, such as dry cleaning sites and industrial properties. He can advise you on Phase I environmental site assessments as well as Phase II investigations.

Environmental site assessments are reports that identify potential or existing environmental contamination liability for a piece of property. The report will analyze and address both the underlying land and real property improvements. In some cases, contaminated land has the potential to be reused once it is cleaned. The EPA has created standards for a Phase I site assessment. One purpose of conducting this site assessment for a buyer may be to meet requirements that allow the buyer to assert an innocent landowner defense under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). When a site is determined to be contaminated, a Phase II environmental site assessment will be performed using ASTM test E1903. This is a more detailed investigation that requires an analysis for hazardous substances or petroleum hydrocarbons.

Seek Guidance from an Environmental Lawyer in Los Angeles

Our firm is dedicated to handling matters at the intersection of environmental law and commercial or industrial real estate law. Whether you are thinking of buying or selling commercial real estate or dealing with an environmental concern on real property, Los Angeles environmental attorney Peter Niemiec can help. He also represents clients who need a real estate lawyer in cities such as Beverly Hills, Pasadena, San Pedro, Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Riverside, Palm Springs, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. Contact us online or call us at (310) 519-0040 to set up an appointment with Peter Niemiec.