Christopher Yetka is the Chair of Larkin Hoffman’s Insurance Recovery and Advice Practice Group, based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a Fellow of the American College of Coverage Counsel, and a former Chair of the Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee of the American Bar Association.
State environmental agencies continue to discover long-hidden contamination around the country. Contamination may turn up after dredging activities, ground water sampling or new building projects on redeveloped sites. When these discoveries are made, those agencies begin the process of finding the source of pollution, which may require historical research on old uses of the surrounding properties.
In recent years, that research has led governmental agencies to target energy utilities for contamination going back decades or even to previous centuries. The discovery of these old contamination sites and the notice of an obligation to clean them up, causes a cavalcade of problems and issues to be solved.
First, the utility must identify whether it can find evidence of historical insurance policies. Once those policies are identified, it must put those insurance carriers on notice of the claim. Second, the utility must hire environmental consultants to test and determine the source and scope of contamination to determine the best approach to clean-up. Finally, the utility must determine how to pay for the clean-up, hopefully with the help of insurance.
This article will address, in two parts, the first and last of those issues. The first part will address finding old insurance policies and the second part will address the best ways to secure coverage once those policies are found.