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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

GASB Considers Pollution Remediation Obligations

April 21, 2005

On March 25, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) released the preliminary views document “Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pollution Remediation Obligations.” Such obligations address the current or potential detrimental effects of existing pollution through participation in remediation activities such as site assessments and cleanups.

A preliminary views document is designed to seek comments at a relatively early stage of a project. It is generally used when GASB anticipates that respondents are likely to be sharply divided on the issues or when the board itself is divided on the issues. The document is a step toward an exposure draft.

The document addresses costs that should be included in measurement,  proposing a cost-accumulation approach to measuring a pollution remediation obligation. Concerning recognition, the document proposes five obligating events and indicates that recognition should not occur until any of the following obligation events transpire: 

  1. Pollution creates an imminent endangerment that compels the government to take pollution remediation action.
  2. The government is in violation of a pollution prevention permit or license.
  3. The government is named or is aware of evidence indicating that it will be named as a responsible party for remediation.
  4. There is evidence or awareness of evidence that the government will be named in a lawsuit requiring participation in pollution remediation.
  5. The government voluntarily commits to participation in pollution remediation efforts.

The document excludes pollution prevention or control obligations with respect to current operations and future pollution remediation activities that would be required upon the retirement of an asset (such as decommissioning of a nuclear power plant). The deadline for submitting written comments to GASB is June 24.

Please share your comments or concerns with Sue Menditto.