What Is VCRA?
The act was developed to permit and encourage voluntary cleanup of facilities where releases or threatened releases of hazardous or deleterious substances exist, by providing interested persons with a method of determining what the cleanup responsibilities will be for reuse or redevelopment of existing facilities. Any entity (such as facility owners, operators, or prospective purchasers) may submit an application for approval of a voluntary cleanup plan (VCP) to the Department. VCPs may be submitted for facilities whether or not they are on the CECRA Priority List.
Effective October 1, 2009, the VCRA plan consists of two components. The first is the submission of an environmental assessment of the facility. Once the Department determines that the environmental assessment of the facility is complete, the VCRA applicant may submit the cleanup or remediation proposal to the Department. After the Department determines that proposal is complete, both sections of the VCP are submitted for public comment and DEQ approval. Both components require the written consent of current owners of the facility or property to both the implementation of the VCP and access to the facility by the applicant and its agents and the Department. The applicant is also required to reimburse the Department for any costs that the state incurs during the review and oversight of a voluntary cleanup effort.
Any VCP that is not approved by October 1, 2009 under the existing framework will be required to follow the two-component process.
The act is contained in §§ 75-10-730 through 738, MCA. Major sections include: § 75-10-732 - eligibility requirements; § 75-10-733 and § 75-10-734 - environmental property assessment and remediation proposal requirements; § 75-10-735 - public participation; § 75-10-736 - timeframes and procedures for Department approval/disapproval; and § 75-10-737 - closure process. Section 75-10-721, MCA of CECRA must also be met.
The 1995 Montana Legislature originally amended the Comprehensive Environmental Cleanup and Responsibility Act (CECRA), creating the Voluntary Cleanup and Redevelopment Act (VCRA) (Sections 75-10-730 through 738, MCA). VCRA formalizes the voluntary cleanup process in the state. It specifies application requirements, voluntary cleanup plan requirements, agency review criteria and time frames, and conditions for and contents of no further action letters. The 2009 Montana Legislature modified the statute to divide VCPs into two components: an environmental assessment and a remediation proposal.
The VCRA Process
The act offers several incentives to parties voluntarily performing facility cleanup. Any entity can apply and liability protection is provided to entities that would otherwise not be responsible for site cleanup. Cleanup can occur on an entire facility or a portion of a facility. Under this act, the Department cannot take enforcement action against the party conducting an approved voluntary cleanup for work addressed in that plan. The Department's review process is streamlined: the Department has 30 days to determine if each component of a voluntary cleanup plan is complete. Once the Department determines both components of an application are complete, it must decide within 60 days whether to approve or disapprove of the application; this 60 days also includes a 30-day public comment period. The Department's decision is based on the proposed uses of the facility identified by the applicant and any risk evaluation completed by the VCP applicant. Once a plan has been successfully implemented and Department costs have been paid, the applicant can petition the Department for closure. The Department must determine whether closure conditions are met within 60 days of this petition and, if so, the Department will issue a closure letter for the facility or the portion of the facility addressed by the voluntary cleanup.
Current VCRA Facilities
As of 2015, the Department has approved 34 voluntary cleanup plans, including mining, manufactured gas, wood treating, dry cleaning, salvage, pesticide, fueling, refining, metal plating, defense, and automotive repair facilities.
Other VCRA Information
The Department does not currently have a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its Voluntary Cleanup Program.
The Department has produced a revised version of the VCRA Application Guide to assist applicants in preparing the environmental assessment and remediation proposal components of the VCP application; this guide is not a regulation and adherence to it is not mandatory.
Two paper copies and an electronic copy of Voluntary Cleanup Plans should be submitted to:
DEQ - Remediation Division
PO Box 200901
Helena, MT 59620-0901