Financing Environmental Loss with Environmental Insurance

Virtually every type of business has some exposure to losses caused by pollutants. The classic example is a factory dumping waste in a river, but health care facilities have medical waste, schools have fleets of busses and fuel storage facilities, print shops have inks and solvents, and offices have toners and other substances used in office equipment. Standard commercial general liability insurance does not cover many types of pollution incidents that could result in lawsuits. However, many specialized policies are available.

Every contractor has some exposure to pollution-related losses. Heavy equipment can leak fluids. Paints and solvents can spill at a job site. Fuel storage tanks at the contractor’s building can leak. A truck hauling hazardous debris from a job site can overturn. To protect themselves against these types of losses, contractors can purchase Contractor’s Pollution Liability Insurance. These policies protect the contractor against claims from third parties for bodily injury, property damage and cleanup costs, and will pay the costs of defending lawsuits. The claim must result from a “pollution incident” (as the policy defines the term) for coverage to apply.

Firms outside the construction industry may need Pollution Legal Liability Insurance. Insurers have designed these policies to address the environmental risks associated with owning property, operating a facility, or running a worksite. Manufacturers, hospitals, schools, power plants, repair shops, and fuel distributors are just a few businesses that need this protection. Like the contractors’ form, it covers injuries, property damage, cleanup and defense costs. However, this policy applies only to specifically identified locations. It can cover multiple exposures, such as new and existing pollution conditions, pollution caused by products the firm sells, liability from the existence of mold, and liability from transporting pollutants.

Many organizations have fuel storage tanks above or below ground. If they leak, the resulting cleanup costs can be very expensive. A Tank Pollution Liability policy will pay for injuries and damage to others and government-mandated cleanup costs.

Lenders run the risk that their debtors will default on loans because of a pollution incident. Lender Liability Pollution policies can address this risk by covering financial loss resulting from the default of a loan on an identified location due to a pollution incident. The policies typically pay the amount of the outstanding loan balance or the cost of remediation, whichever is less.

Many products are either hazardous themselves (such as fertilizers, fuels, paints and cleaning chemicals) or are designed to contain or store hazardous products (such as drums, hoses, tanks, and pumps.) Manufacturers, distributors and sellers of these products are vulnerable to liability for harm they cause. Products Pollution Liability policies cover injuries, damages, and remediation costs resulting from the failure of a product or caused by the product itself.

Property owners and remediation firms that implement pollution cleanup projects sometimes get nasty surprises in the form of cost overruns. To give these firms some certainty for projects costing $2 million or more, Remediation Cost Cap policies are available. These programs cover losses resulting when contamination is greater than expected, new contaminated areas at the site are discovered, regulatory requirements change during the project, or when regulators re-open projects that were thought to be complete.

The terms and conditions of all these policies will vary from one insurer to another, so it is important to review them carefully. It is also advisable to consult with an insurance agent with expertise in environmental insurance. An uninsured pollution loss can devastate an organization. Environmental liability insurance, chosen carefully, can help ensure your organization’s survival.