Davis’ legislation exempting municipal land banks from liability passes state House, moves to state Senate

HARRISBURG, Jan. 21 – State Rep. Austin Davis’ H.B. 1737, which would create an environmental liability exemption for land banks, was passed by the state House of Representatives today.

Current law, as defined under the Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act, deems a land bank – enacted by a municipality for the purpose of acquiring and redeveloping local property – is subject to enforcement action by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

However, the Economic Development Agency, Fiduciary and Lender Environmental Liability Protection Act exempts “economic development agencies” from liability from the DEP, so long as they do not contribute or exacerbate contamination at the property. Economic development agencies include redevelopment authorities, municipal authorities and other government and community-based entities acquiring properties.

Davis’ legislation seeks to grant the same protections to land banks.

“The practice of repurposing land has been stagnant due to the Department of Environmental Protection’s enforcement efforts, which has resulted in large amounts of land remaining vacant,” Davis said. “My bill would exempt land banks from this enforcement, while also encouraging environmental cleanup without fear of being reprimanded for contamination that took place prior to the land bank’s purchase.”

House Bill 1737 now heads to the state Senate for consideration.