How Long is a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment Good For?

A Phase 1 Environmental Assessment is good for one year in most cases. However, expiration also depends on the purpose of the report, and events that take place on the property. For instance, changing industry standards, new environmental conditions, and the CERCLA statutes of limitations can make a Phase 1 ESA obsolete in less time. Updated April 9, 2024.

Updating a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

Redoing a Phase 1 ESA after expiration is an option. However, updating a recent Phase 1 ESA can be a faster and more affordable strategy. At a minimum, updating a Phase 1 ESA comprises re-ordering any potential obsolete components of the assessment, reviewing them in detail, and performing another site inspection. Ultimately, the environmental professionals prepare a new draft that utilizes the non-obsolete resources from before, as well as the new information.

SBA One-Year Expiration Date

The Small Business Administration internally maintains its own “SBA environmental procedures and policies for lenders.” Accordingly, if a loan is securable with commercial real estate, some level of limited environmental due diligence is necessary. Secondly, if the property use is “environmentally sensitive,” the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment process must commence. Otherwise, applicants may proceed with just an environmental questionnaire. Above all, the SBA only accepts Phase I Environmental Site Assessment reports within one year of the production date.

Liability Protection Expiration

Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), a compliant Phase 1 ESA can provide innocent landowner liability assistance. This benefit applies to qualifying report users with ASTM-compliant Phase 1 ESA reports. However, CERCLA liability protection expires after 180 days. For legal advice about Phase 1 ESA liability protection via CERCLA, Geo Forward recommends report users contact an environmental attorney.

Expiration Due to Land-Use Conditions

In some cases, the existing and ongoing land use of property poses a recognized environmental condition (REC). Even after the closure of an ESA report. For instance, a gasoline service station can have continuously operating underground storage tanks (USTs) with the potential to leak at any time. Although the soil may have been tested during a recent Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment, it is possible that a release may occur after the assessment. As a result, the validity of an environmental site assessment report at active gas stations does have stricter limitations.

Expiration by Standards & Screening Level Updates

The ASTM standards for a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment are periodically subject to updates. Consequently, changes to the international standards render all prior reports obsolete. Similarly, subsurface contaminant screening levels are also subject to change. Upon any update of State or Federal environmental regulations, the conclusions and recommendations of all prior Phase 1 ESAs become obsolete.

How Long is a Phase 1 Environmental Report Good For Overall?

Determining how long is a Phase 1 ESA is good for will ultimately depend on the purpose of the report and events that take place on the property. For instance, a Phase 1 ESA for Small Business Administration loans expires after one year. But, the CERCLA Liability Protections can actually expire within 180 days.

As of 2021, the typical use for a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment is valid for about one year. Although a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment shelf life can also vary depending on periodic updates to the ASTM standards and regulatory screening levels. As a result, such changes may cause a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment to expire immediately, due to compromised “All Appropriate Inquiries.

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