We explain the connection between a Phase I ESA in New Jersey and the ISRA process.
Many folks in the state of New Jersey struggle to understand the differences between Phase I Environmental Site Assessments in New Jersey, and whether or not they take the place of ISRA work.
Since they're usually done during some sort of property transaction, and since a good chunk of the properties we conduct a Phase I in New Jersey on are industrial facilities, we're often asked about whether or not a Phase I ESA takes place of ISRA work.
Certainly an interesting question, but unfortunately, not one that's very exciting if you're outside the Garden State.
For everyone in New Jersey though, this is a completely valid and understandable question. Additionally, since we find most folks asking about a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment in New Jersey tend to be under the gun to get things done before an often times quickly approaching closing date, we understand you want a clear, concise answer, and you want it now.
Phase I Environmental Site Assessments in New Jersey vs. the ISRA Process
For those unsure what we're talking about, I'm referring to NJ's ISRA, or Industrial Site Remediation Act, regulations.
If you're not sure what a Phase I is, we cover that here in What is a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment?
Under ISRA, the investigation is usually referred to as Preliminary Assessment. Honestly, the process is very similar to a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment in New Jersey, with some crucial differences that make these two types of environmental due diligence incapable of being substituted for each other.
Think of them as apples and oranges. They're both fruit, but they're not the same.
While involved in an ISRA investigation, a Phase I in New Jersey, or any additional background information would be helpful, but the state is not going to accept it as the Preliminary Assessment.
To answer the question as clear as possible… no, a Phase I in New Jersey does not take the place of an ISRA investigation for an industrial facility.
Should I get a Phase I ESA anyway?
We find a lot of folks in the Garden State think that since an industrial facility is going through the ISRA process, there's no reason to get a Phase I done. Makes sense, right?
No, and that's not a good mindset to have, for a few reasons.
Both ISRA & a Phase I ESA in New Jersey cover the same ground, but are not the same.
One may help with the other, but they cannot be substituted for each other. That's key. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
I cannot stress enough that while they are similar, they are not the same, and they are not interchangable.
A lending institution usually wants a Phase I ESA.
They're standard all over the U.S., while ISRA work is specific to New Jersey. Lending institutions here might want to see an ISRA No Further Action clearance letter, and they'll normally still want a Phase I report as well. If you go outside the state they likely won't even know what ISRA means.
A Phase I ESA in New Jersey provides CERCLA liability protection.
That's the Federal Comprehensive Environmental Responsibility and Cleanup Liability Act, whose name is self-explanatory as to what it addresses. This provides you with a variety of protection against remediation liability should something be found at your facility down the road, which you most likely would be liable for if you didn't have a Phase I conducted. If the Phase I was done according to required protocols (that is extremely important), then you qualify for those protections. We discuss this more in depth in another article called What protection does a Phase I ESA provide?
Should you get a Phase I ESA in New Jersey?
Yes, we're biased, but in our opinion, it's always a good move.
Without a Phase I in New Jersey, it's going to be a murky path as to what you’re responsible for, at least as far as Federal regulations are concerned.
While the ISRA process for industrial facilities in New Jersey also is going to provide you with a layer of liability protection, you’ll get additional protection by also having a solid Phase I done by a competent, experienced environmental professional.
If you're wondering some other things about Phase I, here are some commonly asked questions about them:
Do non-industrial facilities in New Jersey need ISRA?
If you're not looking into an industrial facility, you don't have to worry about ISRA at all. Period, end of story.
So, if you're looking to buy a commerical property in New Jersey, then you won't need ISRA, but it's a good idea to get a Phase I.
A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment in New Jersey is a good idea.
Again, I know this sounds biased, bu