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Brownfields Reuse Initiative
Environmental Liability Limitation Program

Summary of Benefits

Limiting Liability for Cleanup

Regulatory closure for contaminated property cleanup typically comes with a caveat, known as a “reopener” condition.  This condition allows a regulator to “reopen” a project to require additional investigation or cleanup at some future time.  Under that scenario, liability for environmental cleanup may never be completely resolved.


An alternative to the standard approach is participation in Vermont’s Environmental Liability Limitation Program.  The Program closes the reopener loop and resolves the potentially open-ended cleanup issue.  This is accomplished through the issuance of a Certificate of Completion once cleanup goals are achieved.  The Certificate eliminates reopeners for:  pre-existing contamination that is discovered after the cleanup; pre-existing contamination that was not regulated as a hazardous material at the time of the cleanup; and the establishment of more stringent cleanup standards post cleanup.  In this manner, the developer’s liability to the state for cleanup is limited.


The benefits conveyed by the Certificate attach to the property and may be transferred to successor owners, enhancing the property’s value and marketability.


In addition to the above, the Certificate holder is protected from contribution claims brought by other persons who may be responsible for cleanup.   Contribution claims are not unusual in this arena due to the strict liability scheme applicable to contaminated properties.  This protection provides the brownfields developer with an additional level of comfort.


Finally, the state does not pursue enforcement action against a Program participant who is actively engaged in environmental investigation or cleanup.  This enables the state and the developer to work collaboratively on a mutually acceptable project schedule, rather than having the state dictate the cleanup timeframe.


Financial Assistance

Program participants have access to the state’s Brownfields Revitalization Fund.  The Fund provides grants for environmental investigation and cleanup, and low interest loans for environmental cleanup.  Additional information about the Fund is available on the brownfields grants and loans page.


Hazardous waste removed from a property enrolled in the Program is exempted for the state’s hazardous waste transport tax.  This can represent a savings of as much as $60 per ton, depending on the method of disposal.


In addition, projects enrolled in the Program have an advantage when applying for technical assistance grants under the Technical Assistance Program.


Additional Benefits for Prospective Purchasers

Persons who enter the Program prior to purchasing a brownfield property are eligible for additional benefits.  Early involvement promotes a better understanding of contaminant issues, leading to informed decision making.  This approach decreases the likelihood of surprises that could negatively impact the time and cost of addressing contamination.

One direct benefit is elimination of responsibility to pay for the Department's oversight costs.  Another is the protection offered by a cleanup cost increase limitation.  Finally, an early enrollee has the ability to obtain a Certificate of Completion as soon as cleanup is substantially complete.

In summary, this Program allows developers and the state to work collaboratively to achieve closure of environmental cleanup issues.  Access to technical and financial resources enables developers to leverage their investment and fill funding gaps in today’s tight credit markets.













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