Tuesday, April 26, 2011

OHIO EPA: Cleveland Flats Property is Clean

From the Ohio EPA:

News Release Public Interest Center | P.O. Box 1049 | Columbus, OH | 43216-1049 

FOR RELEASE:  April 19, 2011
MEDIA CONTACT: Mike Settles (614) 644-2160
CITIZEN CONTACT: Kristopher Weiss, (614) 644-2160 

 Cleveland Flats Property is Cleaned Up Under Ohio EPA’s Voluntary Action Program 

Through the voluntary efforts of a Cleveland developer, another local brownfield has been investigated cleaned and is ready for redevelopment. 

Ohio EPA has issued a covenant not to sue to Flats East Development LLC for cleaning up a 20-acre site located at 950 Main Street in Cleveland. The covenant not to sue completes the company’s participation in Ohio EPA’s Voluntary Action Program  (VAP) where property owners take the initiative to identify and clean up on-site contamination.

For more than 100 years, the property along the east bank of the Cuyahoga River housed heavy industry including coal and gas plants, ship building and motor freight operations. In the 1980s, the area gradually converted to nightclubs and restaurants. Now, the property is part of the Flats East Redevelopment District and is targeted for a possible hotel, offices and green space.

By entering VAP, Flats East Development assumed responsibility for cleaning the property. Following standards developed by Ohio EPA, it hired a certified environmental professional to assess the site and identify any areas of concern. Building foundations, underground storage tanks, asbestos and approximately 10 acres of contaminated soils were removed from the site and safely disposed.

A covenant not to sue protects the property’s owner or operator and future owners from being legally responsible to the State of Ohio for further investigation and cleanup. This protection applies only when the property is used and maintained in the same manner as when the covenant was issued.

In the 15 years since Ohio EPA issued the first covenant under VAP, more than 6,000 acres of blighted land have been revitalized at more than 300 sites across the state.


Mark Chesler said...

...In a June 26, 1994, Cleveland Plain Dealer article entitled Environmentalists Leery of Possible Loopholes, Chris Trepal, co-director of the Earth Day Coalition in Northeast Ohio, lambasted the enabling VAP legislation as "one of the poorest public policy measures I’ve ever seen." A clairvoyant Richard Sahli, executive director of the Ohio Environmental Council, echoed his sentiment in the May 26,1994, Cincinnati Post, "We do predict there will be a lot of shoddy cleanups under this bill the state will never catch." Testifying before the House Energy & Natural Resources Committee on behalf of the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers, Cincinnati environmental lawyer David Altman asserted, "This bill is a definite bait-and-switch. What it is supposed to do and what it does is two different things."

A seminal, 152 page 2001 Gund Foundation funded study by the Green Environmental Council confirmed the critics’ predictions. A dearth of agency resources to provide meaningful regulatory oversight combined with the lack of a credible, established enforcement mechanism has rendered the feckless, industry aligned program toothless. "It’s a broken program - it doesn’t work," declared the council’s Bruce Cornett in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Both the Sierra Club and Ohio Citizen Action opposed the 2000 $400 million Clean Ohio state bond issue out of concern the fungible proceeds could be utilized to prop up the lame Voluntary Action Program and create a trojan horse polluters slush fund. "This is the governor's attempt to whitewash his EPA," charged Jane Forrest Redfern, environmental projects director for Ohio Citizen Action in a November 1, 2000, Cleveland Plain Dealer article. Dedicated professionals, veteran Ohio EPA bureaucrats attempted to rectify the problem. According to the October 4, 2000, Cleveland Plain Dealer, "EPA staffers who shared some of the environmentalists’ concerns, at one point launched a quiet but unsuccessful campaign to disband the program."

For six years after the Voluntary Action Program’s 1996 implementation, the U.S. EPA refused to extend program participants federal immunity and threatened to decertify the Ohio EPA due to the VAP’s expansive, inhibiting secrecy provisions and tangible lack of transparency. In a brokered, bifurcated modification to the Ohio VAP that "frankly doesn't make sense at all," according to Ohio Public Interest Research Group director Amy Simpson (Akron Beacon Journal, February 24, 2001), an alternative "memorandum of agreement" VAP track with enhanced public access was crafted. Companies that elect the original, opaque, "classic" option, which conceals under an embargo the extent and nature of contamination, will not be afforded U.S. EPA liability insulation. "Why Ohio would want a two-headed monster is beyond me," quipped the Ohio Environmental Council’s Jack Shaner. In SCA’s case, the jaundiced, green and incompliant wants to hide what you can’t see.

Mark Chesler
Oberlin, Ohio


J. Scott Muscatello said...

Great comment. Things I did not know. Thanks for sharing.