Code Section

Civil Code - CIV

DIVISION 2. PROPERTY [654 - 1422]

  ( Heading of Division 2 amended by Stats. 1988, Ch. 160, Sec. 13. )
  

PART 2. REAL OR IMMOVABLE PROPERTY [[755.] - 945.5]

  ( Part 2 enacted 1872. )
  

TITLE 3. RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF OWNERS [818 - 855]

  ( Title 3 enacted 1872. )
  

CHAPTER 3. Environmental Responsibility Acceptance Act [850 - 855]
  ( Chapter 3 added by Stats. 1997, Ch. 873, Sec. 1. )

  
851.  

(a) An owner of a site who has actual awareness of a release exceeding the notification threshold shall take all reasonable steps as defined in subdivision (j) of Section 850 to expeditiously identify the potentially responsible parties. The owner shall, as soon as reasonably possible after obtaining actual awareness of the potentially responsible parties, send a notice of potential liability to the identified potentially responsible parties and the agency, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 25260 of the Health and Safety Code, that the owner believes to be the appropriate oversight agency. For any release exceeding the notification threshold of which the owner has actual awareness that occurred prior to, but within three years of, the effective date of this section, the notice shall be given on or before December 31, 1998.

(b) A potentially responsible party who has actual awareness of a release which is likely to exceed the notification threshold shall as soon as reasonably possible after obtaining actual awareness of the release provide the owner of the site where the release occurred with a release report. For any release exceeding the notification threshold of which the potentially responsible party has actual awareness that occurred prior to, but within three years of, the effective date of this section, the release report shall be given on or before December 31, 1998. A potentially responsible party may issue, at the potentially responsible party’s option, a commitment statement to the owner of the site within 120 days of the potentially responsible party’s issuance of a release report. The fact that a release report is issued shall not constitute an admission of liability and may not be admitted as evidence against a potentially responsible party in any litigation.

(c) When a notice of potential liability is issued, a notice recipient shall respond to the owner, in writing, and by certified mail, return receipt requested, within 120 days from the date that the notice of potential liability was mailed. The notice recipient’s response shall be either a commitment statement or a negative response. The notice recipient’s failure to submit the written response within the 120-day period, or failure to strictly comply with the form of the written response, as provided in Section 854, shall be deemed a negative response. The owner may agree in writing to extend the period during which the notice recipient may respond to the notice of potential liability. An extension of up to 120 days shall be provided if the notice recipient commits to do a site investigation, the results of which shall be provided to the owner and the oversight agency.

(d) (1) The common law duty to mitigate damages shall apply to any failure of the owner of a site to give a timely notice of potential liability when the owner is required to give this notice pursuant to this chapter. Where an owner fails to mitigate damages by not giving a timely notice of potential liability, the owner’s damage claim shall be reduced in accordance with common law principles by the amount that the potentially responsible party proves would have likely been mitigated had a timely notice of potential liability been given.

(2) Common law principles shall apply to the failure of the potentially responsible party to issue a timely release report. Where a potentially responsible party fails to give a timely release report, the potentially responsible party, in accordance with common law principles, shall be responsible to the owner of the site, for damages that the owner proves are likely caused by such failure to provide a release report.

(3) Any party who argues the applicability of this subdivision carries the burden of proof in that regard.

(4) Nothing in this section is intended to create a new cause of action or defense beyond that which already exists under common law.

(5) Subdivisions (a) and (b), and paragraphs (1) and (2) of this subdivision, shall not apply when the party to whom a notice of potential liability or release report is owed already possesses actual awareness of the information required to be transmitted in such notice of potential liability or release report.

(e) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the requirements of this chapter shall not apply to a site listed pursuant to Section 25356 of the Health and Safety Code for response action pursuant to Chapter 6.8 (commencing with Section 25300) of Division 20 of the Health and Safety Code or to a site where an oversight agency has issued an order or entered into an enforceable agreement pursuant to any authority, including, but not limited to, an order or enforceable agreement entered into by a local agency, the Department of Toxic Substance Control, the State Water Resources Control Board, or a regional water quality control board pursuant to Chapter 6.5 (commencing with Section 25100), Chapter 6.7 (commencing with Section 25280), Chapter 6.75 (commencing with Section 25299.10), Chapter 6.8 (commencing with Section 25300), Chapter 6.85 (commencing with Section 25396), or Chapter 6.11 (commencing with Section 25404) of Division 20 of the Health and Safety Code, or pursuant to Division 7 (commencing with Section 13000) of the Water Code.

(2) The requirements of this chapter shall apply if either of the following applies:

(A) The order or enforceable agreement is issued or entered into after the owner accepts a commitment statement.

(B) The Department of Toxic Substance Control, State Water Resources Control Board, or regional water quality control board that issued the order or entered into an enforceable agreement consents in writing to the applicability of this chapter to the site.

(f) It is the intent of the Legislature for this chapter to resolve disputes between, and affect the rights of, private parties only. Nothing in this chapter shall affect the authority of the Department of Toxic Substance Control, the State Water Resources Control Board, a regional water quality control board, or any other oversight agency.

(g) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, any time prior to accepting a commitment statement, the owner may provide the notice to the notice recipient that the provisions of subdivision (c), paragraph (2) of subdivision (e), and Sections 852 and 854, shall not apply to the site, in which case the provisions of subdivision (c), paragraph (2) of subdivision (e), and Sections 852 and 854 shall not apply to the site and the owner and notice recipient shall be entitled to pursue all other legal remedies and defenses authorized by law.

(Added by Stats. 1997, Ch. 873, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 1998.)