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Fort Ord Superfund Site Receives EPA Award

News | July 08, 2020

Kutak Rock partners Barry Steinberg and George Schlossberg are celebrating the Reuse Authority for the former Fort Ord Army Base on its recognition by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a “National Federal Facility Excellence in Site Reuse Award.” The award recognizes the cooperation among the U.S. Army and local partners to rehabilitate the facility and return it to productive use.

The culmination of over 20 years of work, Mr. Steinberg served as environmental counsel to the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA), negotiating a cooperative agreement with the Army for $100,000,000 to investigate and remediate environmental conditions at the base. FORA performed the Army's investigation and remedial obligations at the former base for unexploded ordnance and related munitions and explosives in order to obtain regulatory approval for residential development.

Regulatory approval was contingent upon entering into an enforceable agreement (including stipulated penalties) with the EPA and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control for this National Priorities List (NPL) Site. The Army transferred title to the approximately 3,000-acre site to FORA, deferring the required Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, or “Superfund”) covenant until after the remedial action was completed to the satisfaction of state and federal regulators.

To ensure that funds to complete the scope of work would be adequate, Mr. Steinberg led the FORA team in negotiation of a cost cap pollution legal liability insurance policy to cover cost overruns and environmental liability concerns. Mr. Steinberg also successfully negotiated a remediation services contract with a consortium of environmental engineering companies to perform the scope of work in question for what amounted to a fixed fee.

The base had been a training facility since World War I, closing in 1994. The 28,000-acre base is now home to California State University Monterey Bay campus, Fort Ord National Monument and Dunes State Park, California Central Coast Veterans Cemetery, a retail center, residential developments, and a VA outpatient clinic.

Partner George Schlossberg served as special counsel to FORA on real estate matters for the project, including negotiations concerning land use restrictions on some portions of the property.

Mr. Steinberg is a retired Army colonel with over 26 years of active duty, military legal experience in The Judge Advocate General's Corps, and over 30 years of experience in the private sector. He was the Army's first Chief of The Environmental Law Division, an organization which he conceived and established while still at his post as Chief of the Army's Litigation Division at The Pentagon. His responsibilities included defense of environmental challenges to Army activities brought in United States district courts. These included cases brought under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund) and other environmental and administrative procedure statutes. He provided legal advice to senior Army decision makers on such matters as endangered species, chemical and biological materials and environmental criminal liability.

Mr. Schlossberg serves as Chair of the firm’s Federal Practice and National Security Law Group. George also serves as General Counsel to the Association of Defense Communities (ADC), the national organization that represents state and local communities with active, closed and closing military bases. In 2005, he was appointed to the Department of Veterans Affairs Construction Advisory Board by Veterans Affairs Secretary R. James Nicholson; the Board is responsible for providing advice and policy guidance to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary on the nature and scope of the Department’s construction processes. Prior to joining Kutak Rock, George served for 10 years in various positions in the Pentagon, including as Senior Counsel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In that position, he was instrumental in the drafting and policy implementation of the original 1988 Base Closure Act.