What is a Brownfield?

Pennsylvania does not define the term "Brownfield," but rather uses the US Environmental Protection Agency definition, which is: "A property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant."

Two things need to be noted about that definition. First, there is not a size requirement to be a Brownfield. Brownfields can be a 1/8 of an acre to 2,000 acre's. One of the largest Brownfield sites in the country is the Bethlehem Steel Site in Bethlehem PA which comes in at 1600 Acers. The site won the Environmental Excellence Award and is now the home of Bethlehem Casino.

Second, the potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant is enough for a site to meet the definition of a Brownfield. Actual defined contamination is not required to meet this definition.

What is the difference between an Environmental Impact Assessment and a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment?

An Environmental Impact Assessment EIS is an assessment of the impact a development will have on the environments. It addresses storm water runoff, habitat fragmentation, etc. A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is an inquiry into the site and the buildings on the site to determine if there is a potential for contamination.

Is a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment legally required to transfer property?

No. A Phase I ESA is not required to transfer properties. However, a Phase I ESA helps define potential contamination and its associated liability for clean up. Therefore, depending on the type and history of a property, lenders will require a Phase I as a stipulation to financing in order to limit future liability.

How long is a Phase I ESA good for?

Phase I ESA are only good for six months. Therefore, they are typically completed pending the sale of the property.