Understanding Liability & Brownfields

One of our primary goals at the Colorado Brownfields Partnership is to help Colorado communities understand the untapped potential that exists in brownfield sites, and how revitalization can spur economic development. However, there are many reasons why a property owner (private or public) might want to know and/or cleanup their brownfield. One of which being to remove liability.

Brownfield property owners are liable for any environmental risk the property poses, and this becomes tricky when dealing with property transfers or redevelopment.  At the Partnership, we support liability management in two separate lenses; financial/ legal liability, and stigma liability.  

The chart below defines the different types of liability, and what we at the Partnership can do to help.

Financial/ Legal LiabilityStigma Liability
What is…?Property owners are responsible (legally and financially) to ensure their site does not pollute surrounding properties or serve as a hazard to human health. We call this Financial/ Legal Liability
Brownfield sites can have a bad reputation. This notoriety can even exist without actual contamination, and a site might be labeled as a risk due to the history and physical nature of the site. We call this Stigma Liability. 
What are the consequences associated with…?A failure to assume this financial and legal responsibility could result in litigation from the federal government. In addition, property owners will likely have issues receiving financing for redevelopment or sale of the property.When stigma is associated with a site, selling or purchasing property is almost impossible to occur until the property is cleared of having any environmental contamination. However, the cost of figuring out if there is contamination can be high.
How can the Colorado Brownfields Partnership help with…?We can offer property owners entrance into the VCUP (Voluntary Cleanup Program). This program provides property owners with the educational and financial resources to facilitate cleanups, as well as assurances against EPA enforcement.
This program allows the state of Colorado to certify a site was cleaned, and the property owner will not face litigation from the federal government. In addition, entering into the VCUP assure buyers and lenders that the site is ready for sale and redevelopment. 
We provide FREE targeted brownfield assessments to properties that have perceived environmental contamination. These assessments include both Phase 1 and Phase 2 results, which will provide a historical review of the property’s uses and a soil sample to determine if contamination exists. 


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