About Meredith Szymelewicz

“What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what's going on.” Jacques Cousteau
  We secretly suspect that Meredith is part-dolphin. She’s been with REPSG for the last 10 years managing Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments, emergency response  management, estimating, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) assessments, State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) submittals, wetlands delineations, historic records searches and has specific leadership and experience conducting due diligence and regulatory assessments within the telecommunications industry, but any chance Meredith gets she’s in the water or talking about water or changing her desktop background to cool pictures of water. Meredith received her B. S. in Marine Science with a concentration in Marine Biology from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and is a Certified Open Water Scuba Diver. Did we mention her dolphin tattoo?

Innocent Land Owners Need to Understand PADEP’s Act 2 Program

The old adage “let the buyer beware” refers to a time in history when the seller of a product had no obligation to warn the buyer about defects in the product. Today there are several “implied warranty” laws that ensure anyone buying a product has the right to depend on the product being useable for its intended purpose. Although there are numerous laws and regulations enforced by federal, state, and local agencies to help protect the “buyer,” there are still some wrinkles in the process that every individual should know about. This basic rule also applies to land leases – particularly to leases that allow for the extraction of mineral or oil resources from private property.

In Pennsylvania, land leases for the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation have become common. Earlier this year the PADEP published a draft policy on the obligation of gas companies to clean up spills of waste materials such as fuel oil and fracturing fluids on private properties throughout the state.  The proposed policy provides a set of procedures for oil and gas companies to follow in remediating spills at well pad sites. Of particular interest is the allowance to enter those sites in the PADEP’s brownfield remediation (Act 2) program. The PADEP will allow remediators of spills at oil and gas sites to enter them into the Act 2 program and receive liability protection, based on the fact that a spill of frack fluids would be a spill of residual waste, governed by the Solid Waste Management Act, which is one of the statutes covered under Act 2.  In addition, a spill that could impact the waters of the Commonwealth would be regulated under the Clean Streams Law, which is also covered under Act 2.

Act 2: Is It Helping or Hurting Us?

Act 2 is often perceived as a law whose primary intent was to help facilitate the reuse of old industrial sites. Instead of a developer having to figure out how to remove pollutants from soil and groundwater from a former industrial site, it could propose a “cleanup” that eliminates the risk to public health, allowing the pollution to remain in the environment. Capping the land with asphalt and using public water rather than groundwater would limit exposure of persons intending to use the site in the future, and that would suffice to consider the area “clean” under Act 2.  However, Act 2 is commonly used for all sorts of contaminated sites, not just the stereotypical abandoned factory. The practical effect of the Land Recycling and Environmental Standards Remediation Act (Act 2) was to shift the principle that governed environmental cleanups inPennsylvaniafrom the use of the best available technology to remove pollution, to one of allowing pollution to remain in the environment so long as it does not threaten public health.

An innocent land owner who is looking for a cash cow and lessees their land to gas companies for the drilling of natural gas wells should be aware, that although Act 2 does offer protection of life and health, at the end of the process contaminants may still remain in place. That means that if a gas company contaminates your soil and/or groundwater, the PADEP will only make sure the company does what is necessary to meet the risk-based standards under Act 2. So, “Let the lessors beware.” You’ll have to protect your own soil and/or groundwater if you are not satisfied with the risk-based cleanup standards under Act 2, and want to ensure that your property is as clean after drilling as it was before.

“Do you have a site that may be environmentally compromised? REPSG can help you sort through process. REPSG offers a range of environmental due diligence, environmental investigations and remediation for private and commercial land owners.  Do not hesitate to contact REPSG for all of your environmental needs and questions.

Top 5 Challenges Lenders Face in Environmental Due Diligence

EDR surveyed 819 financial institutions that provided insight into the Environmental Due Diligence (EDD) challenges that they face. REPSG is a full service, customer conscious environmental firm that has the following commentary related to the below mentioned lender challenges:

 

Challenge #1: Environmental Reports and Risk-Based Decisions

  • Interpreting environmental results and knowing which risks to be concerned about
  • Finding out what the EP’s opinion is and determining whether the subject property has any environmental issues the bank should be concerned about

At REPSG, all EDD is performed by personnel who have many years of experience and meet the AAI and ASTM E1527-05 qualifications and can make coherent professional, environmental decisions. We make sure we understand the lenders risk tolerance and their overall lending goals. Our reporting is structured to clearly define what a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) is and if it is a concern for the property in question. We clearly define the risks and recommendations in our reporting and follow up with the lender to ensure that any questions they may have are answered.

 

Challenge #2: Internal Education & Training

  • Understanding the importance of EDD in the context of the overall lending process
  • Educating senior management and loan officers

At REPSG we are very experience with lenders and their vary degree of EDD knowledge. We make sure that every lender understands the important that their personnel are knowledgeable and understands all of the potential EDD concerns and how it is a critical component of the bank’s overall risk management practices. We have meet with many lenders and presented case studies and conveyed the importance of knowing many risks involved with inadequate EDD or the choice not to require any EDD. We are contracted by many banks to perform a third party review of EDD reporting to endure that the EDD assessment was conducted in compliance with AAI and ASTM E1527-05 standards and that our professional judgment and that of the report writers professional judgment coincide with each other. Our goal is to make sure the lender understands their environmental risk.

 

Challenge #3: Turnaround Time

  • Meeting the challenges of efficiently conducting EDD

At REPSG, we know what items required for EDD take time and therefore have a system down that allows us to efficiently turnaround an EDD assessment to meet the client’s needs and the AAI and ASTM E1527-05 standards. The federal, state and local review of records is one of the most important and time consuming requirements of EDD, which REPSG makes a priority during our EDD research. We have experience turning around an assessment anywhere from two days to two weeks.

 

Challenge #4: EDD Decisions

  • Balancing EDD costs against risk tolerance
  • Determining appropriate EDD levels

At REPSG, we are very focused on what our customer’s ultimate goals and needs are for the property. We emphasize for them if the site’s history will pose large environmental risk and expense and if the risk is manageable through the longer and more intense regulatory process or possibly the more simplified construction and disposal process. Being able to breakdown the risk and type of management for a site can clarify the level of environmental liability related to the size of the loan.

 

Challenge #5: Competitive Issues

  • Justifying EDD costs to customers
  • Requiring borrowers to pay for a Phase I when a competing bank doesn’t.

At REPSG, we encourage lenders to compare our comprehensive EDD assessments to others. This comparison justifies the need for the assessment as well as being able to pass on the costs to their customer. We are very focused on producing a site-specific assessments tailored to identify the RECs and risks involved at each property.