Unlike regulators, Harris & Lee Environmental Sciences, LLC seeks to maintain the overall well-being of a business while remediating an environmental problem.
Achieving environmental compliance with minimal business impact
Sometime in the early 1920s, a prime piece of property in the downtown area of what is now one of Northern California's historic small cities was leased to establish a large car dealership. As was common practice for homes and small commercial enterprises in that era, liquid fuel for the facility was stored in tanks underground. Fire was the imminent danger and primary public concern at the time and these tanks were subject to the Uniform Fire Code, which mandated underground storage of flammable substances. The potential for soil or groundwater contamination was not then a consideration.
Over the next sixty years, ownership of the property was passed down from one generation to the next. Its operation, in the hands of various lessees, continued unchanged as a car dealership.
In 1984, new underground storage tank laws were passed that required compliance by the property owner. He faced mandates from the local regulatory agency to initiate a site assessment process and to commence remediation.
The lease on the business was to expire within five years and the lessee intended to move to a new facility within that time frame. This planned break in business operation would provide a convenient window of time for assessment and remediation. The regulatory agency, however, would not condone such a postponement. Despite potential business setbacks or negative financial repercussions, there was no valid excuse for delay from the regulatory perspective.
The property owner felt stuck. The lessee needed to maintain continuous operations to remain financially stable. Temporary closure of the facility, no matter how short, was not a viable solution. How could he comply with the mandates without affecting his lessee's daily business operations?
The property owner contacted Harris & Lee Environmental Sciences, LLC for a solution.
- Unlike the regulators, Harris & Lee Environmental Sciences, LLC seeks to maintain the overall well-being of a business rather than simply to solve an identified technical problem.
The first step was to sit down with the property owner to understand his business parameters. A series of "what if" scenarios were developed and discussed with the owner:
- How do we involve the lessee, so that he becomes a legally responsible party? How would this affect the owner financially? Would this create a long-range problem for utilizing the property?
- What if nothing is done? What is the regulatory climate? How would regulatory intervention affect the dealership business? The property owner?
- What if the property owner did comply immediately? (Did temporarily close the facility to permit complete removal of the tanks.) What impact would this have on the lessee's business? What impact on the property owner?
Discussion of these scenarios clarified the property owner's business goals and their priority in formulating a strategy. Several questions remained:
- What is the regulatory climate? What do the regulations say specifically; is another regulatory solution possible? What about the mandated technical solution; is it feasible?
Harris & Lee Environmental Sciences, LLC investigated these questions to evolve a set of actions that would address the regulatory requirement but protect the property owner's business interests.
- To limit the property owner's financial liability, should regulatory action ensue, Harris & Lee Environmental Sciences, LLC consulted with the property owner's attorney and then took steps that would provide a foundation for broadening legal responsibility to the lessee. This involved documenting the lessee's business practices and conducting a number of operating audits that specifically identified the lessee as the culprit for illegal discharges.
- Simultaneously, a limited site assessment was initiated. This investigation was guided by a small section of the regulation that would permit leaving the storage tanks in place if they were closed and monitored.
Utilizing this assessment process enabled the property owner to control his destiny to his greatest advantage; i.e., to remove the underground storage tanks after the lease expired.
Harris & Lee awarded "2009 Best Environmental Firm"
QUICK LINKSPhase 1 – AAIs (E-1527-05) Environmental Site Assessment
EH&S Professional Consulting
Environmental Due Diligence For Lenders/Banks
Harris & Lee Environmental Sciences, LLC
Based in Northern California with offices in Santa Rosa and San Francisco
Santa Rosa: (707) 571-8961