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SACRAMENTO-A new California state law may encourage developers to clean-up brownfield sites and get them back into productive use. Signed into law late last week, the California Land Reuse and Revitalization Act of 2004 provides developers with the assurance that the state will not sue a party who follows the statute’s procedures with regard to the assessment and cleanup of polluted sites. Previously, developers had to negotiate with agencies for their liability protections on a project-by-project basis, and their liability protections were often “quite limited,” says Shiraz Tangri, an environmental attorney with Los Angeles-based Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman Machtinger and Kinsella, LLP. “Now that the state has codified the terms and conditions for redevelopment of these contaminated sites, developers will have a better understanding of the financial and legal risks going in to a proposed transaction.” According to reports, there are approximately 1,200 brownfield sites in California. The new statute generally applies to redevelopment of sites in urban infill areas impacted by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance. The statute’s procedures cover assessing the contamination present on a site and, if necessary, implementing a response plan to cleanup the property in compliance with the environmental and public health standards in existing law. The liability protection does not extend to additional contamination discovered after the agreement is reached.”The new law is not a total avoidance of governmental liability, but a trade-off that grants certain liability protections to a developer who signs an agreement to assess and clean up the site,” says Tangri. “Developers should feel more comfortable going forward knowing the limits of their liability once they fulfill their commitment to the state.”

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