Oregon House Bill 3325 provides the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) a mechanism to give potential purchasers a higher level of certainty regarding potential environmental liability.  This legislation clarifies DEQ’s authority to provide a prospective property owner with a release from liability for existing spills or releases of oil and other hazardous substances and for prior entry of such substances into waters of the state.

A “brownfield” is a vacant or underused property where actual or perceived environmental contamination complicates expansion or redevelopment.  Prospective purchasers of brownfields may decline to buy or develop the land out of fear of the potentially high costs of investigating and cleaning up the property.  House Bill 3325 allows the DEQ release a purchaser from liability by either an administrative order on consent or a judicial consent judgment (previously the more expensive judgment was needed to get a third-party release).  Of course, owners will remain liable for any spill or release of oil or hazardous substance, or release of oil into state waters, which occurs after they have become an owner or if they exacerbate or contribute to the release or are otherwise negligent or violate the law. The legislation also confirms that a purchaser of land or a facility already subject to administrative agreement may be released by DEQ if the purchaser adopts and agrees to be bound by agreement.