Environmental Alert: Upcoming Maine VRAP Application Fee Increase
As of January 1, 2018, a substantial increase in fees associated with the Maine Voluntary Response Action Program (VRAP) will become effective. If you are currently working on or participating in a project or transaction involving contaminated property in Maine, consider submitting a VRAP application before December 31, 2017, in order to take advantage of the current fee structure before the change goes into effect.
The VRAP process was established by the Maine Legislature in 1993 and allows applicants to voluntarily investigate and address contaminated properties in exchange for certain assurances of non-liability from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The purpose of the program is to encourage cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated properties in the state. The effect is to clarify liability relative to sites, afford liability protection to program participants, and to assign responsibility for response actions. Applicants who complete the VRAP process receive from the Department (1) a determination that a site does not require remedial action through issuance of a “No Further Action Assurance” letter; (2) approval of a voluntary response plan relative to a site and a “No Action Assurance” letter that applies so long as the applicant is performing the response plan; and/or (3) a Certification of Completion indicating that the response action required by the plan is complete.
Under the current fee paradigm, VRAP applicants pay $500 when applications are submitted and receive an invoice for staff time (not to exceed $50 per hour) at the culmination of the process. Under the new structure, the fee paid at the time of application submission will be 1% of the assessed value of the property subject to the VRAP, with a fee cap of $15,000. The new fee structure becomes effective January 1, 2018. Applications submitted prior to December 31, 2017, however, will be subject to the current fees (even if the VRAP process is not completed until 2018 or beyond). Hence, it would behoove any entity with a project that could benefit from the VRAP process (whether for itself or for financing concerns) to submit an application before the New Year.
The purpose for the changed fee structure is to move the program towards sustainability and to protect against decreased brownfields funding. The increased fees will help to ensure that the Department’s VRAP staff continue to have resources to process applications in a timely and efficient fashion.