I nvestigate l and u se h istory purchasers of

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I NVESTIGATE  L AND -U SE  H ISTORY Purchasers of property can be held liable under Superfund for the clean-up of hazardous wastes dumped by previous property owners. Although current property owners who pay clean-up costs can sue the previous owners for contribution, such litigation is expensive and the outcome uncertain. Clearly, a more prudent course is to investigate the history of the use of the land prior to purchasing the property. You might even want to hire a private environmental site inspector to determine, at a minimum, whether the land has any obvious signs of former contamination. I NVESTIGATE   AND  C ORRECT  E NVIRONMENTAL  V IOLATIONS Today’s companies have an incentive to discover their own environmental wrongdoings. The federal sentencing   guidelines   encourage   companies   to   promptly   detect,   disclose,   and   correct   wrongdoing, including environmental crimes. Companies that do so are subject to lighter penalties for violations of environmental laws. Thus, a company would be well advised to conduct environmental compliance audits regularly. Small businesses (those with up to one hundred employees) will find it particularly advantageous to investigate and correct environmental violations. Under current EPA guidelines, the EPA will waive all fines if a small company corrects environmental violations within 180 days after being notified of the violations (or 360 days if pollution-prevention techniques are involved). The policy does not apply to criminal violations of environmental laws or to actions that pose a significant threat to public health, safety, or the environment. C HECKLIST   FOR   THE  B USINESSPERSON 1. If you are going to purchase real estate, use land, or engage in activities that might cause envi - ronmental damage, check with your attorney immediately. 2. If you want to avoid liability for violating environmental regulations or statutes, conduct envi-
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CHAPTER 45:  ENVIRONMENTAL LAW          125 ronmental compliance audits on a regular basis. 3. If you are ever charged with violating an environmental regulation or law, contact your attorney. 4. In general, environmental law is sufficiently complex that you should never attempt to deal with it without the help of an attorney. T EACHING  S UGGESTIONS 1. To illustrate that the costs of many kinds of pollution are borne not by the polluter but by somebody else, use an example of what has been called the tragedy of the commons.  Ask students to imagine, for example, a pasture open to the livestock of all farmers.  As the number of livestock begins to exceed the
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