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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

GASB Issues Pollution Remediation Standard

December 1, 2006

On December 1, the GASB issued statement 49, “Pollution Remediation Obligations,” which identifies circumstances under which a governmental entity would be required to report a liability related to pollution remediation. A liability related to pollution remediation is a government’s cost or obligation of cost in addressing the current or detrimental effects of existing pollution through such activities as environmental assessments or cleanups.

Under the new standard, liabilities and expenses would be estimated using an “expected cash flows” measurement technique, which will be employed for the first time by governments. Statement 49 also would require governments to disclose in the notes to the financial statements information about their pollution remediation obligations associated with clean-up efforts. 

According to the statement, a government would have to estimate its expected outlays for pollution remediation if it knows a site is polluted and any of the following recognition triggers occur:

  1. pollution poses an imminent danger to the public or environment and a government has little or no discretion to avoid fixing the problem;
  2. a government has violated a pollution prevention-related permit or license;
  3. a regulator has identified (or evidence indicates a regulator will do so) a government as responsible (or potentially responsible) for cleaning up pollution, or for paying all or some of the cost of the clean up;
  4. a government is named in a lawsuit (or evidence indicates that it will be) to compel it to address the pollution; and/or
  5. a government begins to clean up pollution or conducts related remediation activities (or the government legally obligates itself to do so).

The new statement can be ordered by visiting the GASB website.