The 2002 Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act or BRERA curtailed the Federal government’s ability to seek damages and recover costs from property owners under certain sections of CERCLA. These enforcement bars against innocent landowners, contiguous property owners, and prospective purchasers were promulgated to encourage Brownfields redevelopment. However, as a condition of the liability protections offered under BRERA, a prospective purchaser must perform All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) in accordance with rules developed by USEPA (40CFR Part 312) and commercialized by ASTM in its 1527-05 Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments.

A major component of the AAI due diligence process is compliance with 40CFR Part 312.26: Review of Federal, State, Tribal and local government records. EPA requires that a long list of permit records and spill records be examined for the subject parcel and other sites within defined radii. Given the extensive and complex nature of both Federal and state record-keeping systems, a number of data management companies have emerged that specialize in assembling and summarizing publicly available environmental information. Usually combining these records within a GIS format, these companies are able to quickly and cost-effectively provide very useful maps and data tables, often combining them with other required components of Part 312 (aerial photographs, historical topographic maps, etc.).

In order to compare the completeness of these data base searches, we selected a well known Superfund site in the northeastern US and ordered regulatory database searches from three specialty providers: Environmental Data Resources, Inc (EDR); BBL Environmental; and Environmental FirstSearch (FirstSearch, InfoMap). While each company offered a package that claimed to meet 40CFR Part 312.26 requirements, there were some disparities in quality, format and timeliness of deliverables, responsiveness to follow-up questions, and available geographic coverage. Our comparison of each data package is summarized and validated against our own search of the same EPA records. Recommendations are provided for those environmental professionals that frequently depend on data base service companies to help ensure that they are using the most current and reliable information available.