Yes. The Voluntary Cleanup Program (“RRC-VCP”) provides an incentive to remediate oil and gas related pollution by participants as long as they did not cause or contribute to the contamination. Applicants to the program receive a release of liability to the state in exchange for a successful cleanup.
When cleanup is completed, the RRC will issue a certificate of completion, which embodies the release of liability to the state for a participant (and subsequent owners) who did not cause or contribute to the contamination and did not acquire the certificate by fraud, misrepresentation, or knowing failure to disclose material information.
Some practitioners have argued that the RRC-VCP is not as attractive as the equivalent program under the TCEQ. With regard to the TCEQ program, current owners oftentimes have exposure for cleanup even if they did not cause the contamination and will enter the TCEQ VCP in order to avoid enforcement and to obtain a certificate of completion which permits them to more easily sell the property.
However, with respect to the RRC-VCP, non-operating surface interest owners generally do not have liability for oil field contamination and are therefore, less likely to volunteer to clean it up.
In addition, the statutory authority for the TCEQ program also permits cost-recovery claims against the responsible parties. However, the authority for the RRC-VCP does not have an equivalent provision. Accordingly, a person who is not otherwise liable for cleanup has less incentive to volunteer to clean it when there is no hope of collecting their costs against the responsible party.
You can learn more about the RRC’s Voluntary Cleanup Program at the RRC’s website at: http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/oil-gas/environmental-cleanup-programs/site-remediation/voluntary-cleanup-program/
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