No Further Remediation Letters have become an established part of the regulatory landscape. These letters serve many purposes, including reducing uncertainty over future clean-up obligations and signifying that the property is “clean enough” for development. But the process can take time, which in some instances delays transactions and increases cost.
To address these delays, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (“IEPA”) has stated that it intends to move forward with an expedited No Further Remediation (“NFR”) Letter program by the end of the year. According to IEPA, this program will be modeled after the currently available program for air and water permits. Under the current program, an applicant is required to enter into a contract and pay an upfront fee that is intended to cover the cost of overtime review of the applicant’s Site Remediation Program (“SRP”) application and supporting documents, such as a Remedial Action Plan, Comprehensive Site Investigation Report, Remedial Objectives Report, Remedial Action Completion Report, etc. In turn, IEPA provides an estimated ‘guaranteed’ date by which IEPA will issue the permit.
Currently, the expedited permit fee is four times the standard permit fee required for the requested permit, provided that the expedited permit fee shall not exceed $100,000. 415 ILCS 5/39.14(c). For recurring permit fees, the expedited permit fee is four times the amount of the recurring fee on a one-time basis for each expedited permitting action. Id. If an owner or operator is not required to pay a standard permit fee for the requested permit, the amount of the expedited permit fee is mutually agreed upon by the Agency and the applicant. Id.
Under the new program, IEPA will likely require the applicant to pay a similar fee arrangement and sign an agreement in exchange for a ‘guaranteed’ date by which IEPA will issue the NFR Letter. This program should make compliance with environmental regulations less burdensome and may prove valuable to developers who desire greater certainty for when a transaction will close. It is also encouraging that the IEPA has recognized regulatory delays are never good for property development projects.