Article Contaminated Land Loss Prevention


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The AGS Contaminated Land Working Group organised a seminar in July 2001 to provide an update on the latest position of environmental insurance. Seminar presentations were provided by speakers from both insurance brokers and underwriters (Mike Patterson of Willis, Tony Lennon of ECS, Ian Evans of CERTA and Richard Davies of AIG).


The regeneration of brownfield land has been hindered by the absence of a coherent redevelopment framework, the entrenched attitudes of some regulators and the previous availability of greenfield alternatives.

Concerns over the inherent complexity of the Contaminated Land regime and its ambiguous liability principles are causing ongoing uncertainty in the property industry. Research carried out on behalf of the RICS has demonstrated that concern about contamination is still the major barrier to brownfield land regeneration.

The main concerns tend to centre around financial uncertainties such as escalating clean up costs, the long term liability exposures and the potential impact of stigma. The risks are compounded by a perceived lack of clarity in relation to the consistent enforcement of the new regime by the local authorities (and regional Environment Agency offices) and the practical application of the risk assessment process

Notwithstanding these concerns, Government policy, new fiscal incentives and other commercial pressures are encouraging the mainstream property sector to reconsider its historic aversion to land with a previous industrial usage.

The evolution of new environmental insurance solutions over the past five years has had a significant impact on brownfield land development. New risk transfer products are being used to remove residual risk exposures and maximise financial certainty.

It is recognised that insurance should be considered in the context of a risk management strategy as indicated below:



AVOID – abstain from activity or purchase
CONTROL – loss prevention / monitoring
RETENTION – retain the risk
TRANSFER – insurance, contract, warranty

This article will review the main environmental insurance products and markets as outlined in the seminar.

Environmental Risk Exposures

Most operations and business ventures are exposed to environmental risk. Practical sources of risk arise from three sources a) Operational risk – may lead to pollution at some time in the future and typically arise form sources such as industrial plant, vehicles and transportation, fuel and chemical storage or waste products b) Historical risks – relate to past activities that may have left a legacy or dormant or active pollution. c) Contractual risk – liabilities and warranties agreed in contract such as sale and purchase agreements, leases, indemnities and warranties etc.

Many organisation perceive that environmental risks are covered by their existing public liability or property damage insurance however these usually have pollution exclusion clauses and do not cover own site clean-up.

Potential consequences of these risks include own site / off-site damage and clean-up costs, business interruption, regulatory authority notices, legal costs, bodily injury and property damage.

The Players

The design and placement of an appropriate environmental insurance solution usually requires input form many parties. Policies cover potentially enormous loss scenarios and may represent significant capital outlay. It is therefore important to recognise the pitfalls and obtain objective advise.

The players potentially involved comprise:

“PLAYER” ROLE BROKERS Professional intermediaries who have access to the whole market and range of products, acts in Clients interest to obtain best solution. Not to be confused with underwriting agents or insurers eg. Willis, Aon, Marsh,

AGENTS Acts on behalf of a specific insurer offering their products and conditions eg. CERTA are agents for Allianz Cornhill insurers

INSURERS Underwrite the risk eg AIG, Allianz, ECS / XL Capital, Zurich

REINSURERS Insure the insurers eg Swiss Re LLOYDS Private and corporately funded syndicates

INSUREDS Varied but includes industry, commerce, banks / pension funds, governments etc etc

The Products

The main environmental insurance products include :

  • Historical Contamination Cover Insurance can be arranged for liabilities associated with pre-existing contamination ie not liabilities associated with current activities or future “new” pollution. Cover is typically provided for both third party damage claims (resulting from off-site migration) and statutory clean up costs. It can however be extended to cover issues such as business interruption or economic loss associated with contamination (eg rental income, loss in property values etc). Policy periods typically vary between 5 and 15 years.

Policies can be worded so that they are fully transferable and often jointly insure various parties (eg vendor, developer, acquirer and financial backers etc).

  • Remediation Cost Cap Insurance Cost cap insurance is designed to minimise the uncertainty associated with clean up projects by providing the extra funds to complete the works in the event of a cost overrun resulting from the discovery of additional contamination, failure of the remedial technology etc. It is often combined with a ‘wrap up’ cover to protect against pollution liabilities associated with the actual clean up operations and the long term effectiveness of the scheme.

  • Contractors Pollution Liability Remediation and construction operations present an on-going risk of pollution or contamination. Public liability policies typically exclude gradual pollution risks and will not cover any on-site remediation costs. Specialist cover is however available to indemnify the contractors against on-going pollution risks resulting from unanticipated discharges, leakages or spillages etc

Future Pollution Cover (Operational Pollution Risks) Public liability policies generally provide cover only for the costs of third party damages and injury arising from pollution incidents that are sudden, accidental and unexpected. Most PL policies do not therefore provide cover for claims arising from gradual pollution such as leaking underground storage tanks. In addition PL policies do not cover clean up of the insured’s own land and may not respond to clean-up orders from the regulatory authorities. Future Pollution cover is designed to “plug” these gaps providing for own site clean-up, claims from neighbours for damages or injury, legal defence costs and clean-up notices from regulatory authorities. Such insurance is available for policy periods between one and five years.

In many situations the correct business risk solution involves the combination of historical contamination cover and future pollution cover for example. This provides cover for claims for third party damage and injury arising from historical contamination migrating off site and future spills, run-offs and leaks. It also provides for clean-up orders for the insured’s own site or third party land from enforcement authorities – for example remediation notices from the local authority.

Where sites are heavily contaminated and remediation is required, cost cap cover can be placed to limit escalation of costs, backed up by historic contamination cover to provide assurance for financial consequences of potential residual contamination not dealt with by the remediation.

The Finale

Most industrial operations and business ventures are exposed to environmental risk. Constantly tightening legislation coupled with an active merger and acquisition climate means that these risk area becoming more significant. Environmental insurance is providing a rapidly expanding armoury of solutions to these risk exposures. The environmental insurance market in the UK has seen substantial increases in insurance premium volume and innovative deals to demonstrate the value of environmental insurance. Willis estimate up to £25 million in premium was written in the London insurance markets during 2000 and this figure was almost doubled during 2001. This represents very rapid growth – five years ago premium was negligible. Insurance should form only part of an integrated risk management approach to environmental liability exposures but can be a valid and real part of the solution.

For further information please contact Fiona Rooney (Director – Environment Practice, Willis Ltd)
Tel 0118 949 8035,