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US EPA Adopts ASTM E1527-21 Standard As Meeting All Appropriate Inquiries (With Webinar)

The Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) plays a crucial role for lenders, buyers, investors, and other stakeholders by assessing environmental risks associated with commercial real estate and providing landowner liability protections. Certainly such an important document needs a consistent process, one that is established in the Phase I ESA ASTM Standard Practice—a document updated every seven years.

On December 15, 2022, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) issued its final rule amending the All Appropriate Inquiries rule under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and approving the use of ASTM International’s E1527-21 Standard Practice for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments: Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment Process. In the US EPA’s final rule, which takes effect on February 13, 2023, the Agency also indicated that the E1527-13 Standard (issued in 2013) would be sunset on February 13, 2024. This marks a significant change from the US EPA’s draft ruling on March 14, 2022, recognizing both standards as meeting All Appropriate Inquiries. This initial ruling was subsequently withdrawn on May 2, 2022, following adverse comments, including comments from LaBella.

As one of only 14 commenters, LaBella argued that the continued use of the dated E1527-13 Standard would create market confusion among users. Specifically, as the updated standard continued to build upon the best practices consultants should be following when completing a Phase I ESA, LaBella contended that the use of both standards could be detrimental to users in assessing the overall environmental risk associated with a piece of real estate. The primary issue was that while the updated standard identified specific levels of research to be completed for both the Subject Property and adjacent properties, the dated standard left some aspects of research to the opinion of the Environmental Professional. This discrepancy would have created the potential for environmental concerns to go unidentified in the Phase I ESA meeting the out-of-date standard. Furthermore, LaBella noted in its comment to the US EPA that key definition changes and the inclusion of significant data gaps within the 2021 standard would allow for inconsistencies in overall report findings when compared to the 2013 standard.

LaBella was an early adopter of the updated standard and has completed Phase I ESAs satisfying both the dated E1527-13 Standard and the updated E1527-21 Standard since February 2022. We have extensive experience with the updated standard and anticipate a seamless change in service in February 2023, at which time Phase I ESAs completed by LaBella will be in accordance strictly with the E1527-21 Standard and remove references to the dated 2013 standard.

The landowner liability protections afforded by a Phase I ESA under CERCLA should be paramount to prospective purchasers, developers, lenders, and other parties associated with such transactions. The US EPA’s final ruling approving the updated E1527-21 Standard as meeting All Appropriate Inquiries reflects a step forward in quantifying the steps that should be taken to assess environmental risk prior to taking ownership of a property. While the final ruling approves the continued use of the dated E1527-13 Standard until early 2024, LaBella strongly recommends that parties begin relying on Phase I ESAs completed to the recently released E1527-21 Standard as of February 13, 2023, to ensure that the level of research completed and classification/discussion of environmental concerns is commensurate with current customary practices as outlined in the updated standard.

For a detailed review of the changes in the new standard, please click here.

For a link to view our webinar where we provide a 30 minute summary of the new standard, please fill out our form that follows the “Key Takeaways” section below. 


Key Takeaways

The US EPA’s final rule regarding the new ASTM E1527-21 Standard goes into effect on February 13, 2023.

The old ASTM E1527-13 Standard will sunset on February 13, 2024.

This is a welcome change from the US EPA’s March 2022 draft ruling indicating either standard would provide liability protection. Using only one standard will increase consistency and reduce confusion among users.

Our Due Diligence Services

Register to view our webinar and learn more about the new standard.

On Thursday, February 9th at 10:oo a.m. EST we provided a 30 minute summary of the new standard via a live webinar.

Please fill out the form at right to receive access to the recorded webinar.

Este campo es un campo de validación y debe quedar sin cambios.
About the Author
Dave Crandall, PG
Phase I ESA Program Manager

As LaBella’s Phase I Program Manager, Dave is responsible for the oversight, training, and professional development of analysts and senior reviewer staff, as well as for the overall quality assurance/quality control of Phase I Environment Site Assessment, Transaction Screen, and Records Search with Risk Assessment (RSRA) due diligence reports. He also assists project managers with client interactions and business development activities.

Dave has been involved in over 10,000 due diligence projects ranging from undeveloped land and commercial properties to automotive repair facilities, gasoline stations, and large-scale industrial facilities. He has performed environmental due diligence services for attorneys, private entities/developers, municipalities, and various commercial lenders. In addition, Dave is experienced in environmental investigation and remediation techniques and offers his experience in these areas to assist clients in determining the best way to address potential environmental risks encountered through due diligence activities.