7 Things to Know About Using CGL Policies with State Cleanup Funds



While it would be ideal to rely on these funds alone to pay for necessary investigation and remediation services, it’s not always the most viable option because while there are certainly strong funds still in operation, we have seen that some funds are considering sunsetting, and with others, reimbursement payments are being delayed.

Another or additional solution for dry cleaners is to track down their historical Commercial General Liability (CGL) insurance policies. By locating these policies, a dry cleaner can use them as assets (money) to help cover the costs associated with environmental investigations and cleanups, such as investigation, remediation, and legal fees. We’ve been assisting dry cleaners in states with and without trust funds through this process for over two decades.

Here are some common questions we hear from the dry cleaning community about state cleanup funds.

The first thing that a dry cleaner should do is look for all of their old insurance policies. Typically, the older the policy, the fewer restrictions they have regarding covering environmental contamination claims. Generally, we need policies that were issued before 1985. Dry cleaners should look through all old bank records, and write down the name and company of all insurance brokers they have worked with. Secondly, they should jot down a history of when they started at the location, who they purchased insurance from, what types of stores were at that location (or adjacent) and what other insurance was part of the property. They will also need to identify whether or not there was a previous dry cleaner who may have caused or contributed to contamination. Finally, we recommend not moving forward without expert advice. Often times if a dry cleaner launches into a cleanup without notifying insurance carrier(s), they will not be reimbursed for money spent on the site investigation and cleanup.

Making a valid claim to your carrier can mean the difference between paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a site cleanup compared to paying a small amount for startup costs like. In most instances, a valid claim made to an insurance company will be defended. Among other things, this defense can include legal fees and site investigation activities.

Depending on the state, it is common for an insurance carrier to decline paying costs incurred before a claim was tendered. We have had several clients that spent money on investigations and cleanups, but were only reimbursed a fraction of their costs because the insurance carriers felt they could have managed the work differently and cheaper.

In many states that have cleanup funds, a prospective purchaser agreement (PPA) will allow a property transaction to proceed prior to a regulatory release and sign off of no further action. However, a PPA generally does not remove any contingent liabilities associated with the dry cleaning site; but instead delays the inevitable site investigation and potential cleanup. It also allows the purchaser more time to discover any additional problems that the seller’s are often responsible for.

Furthermore, the involvement of a dry cleaner in a fund does not remove any contingent environmental liabilities from the site itself, nor does it fully protect the dry cleaner from any potential actions that might arise from contamination. These issues could include diminished values to property or to other properties that might be affected by contamination coming from the site. Also, the cleanup funds do not fully protect a dry cleaner from a citizen or third party suit associated with contamination coming from his/her site.

Learn how to sell your dry cleaning business in three steps

Such funds may best be used for either actual cleanup efforts, known as remediation, for which insurance dollars are generally more difficult to recover, or for sites at which such insurance dollars or other responsible parties cannot be identified. Cleanup fund dollars may also provide seed money to perform any insurance archaeology or pay for other efforts that can identify where dollars for cleanup may be found. The bottom line is that a fund with enough money to pay for cleanups is a good thing. However, the problem is that most states do not have enough money in the fund to cover the necessary cleanups at this time.

An ideal situation is a fund that allows dry cleaners to pursue any and all avenues to bring dollars to the table and be available as a safety net for cleaners that do not have other avenues to pursue. Ideally the fund would be used to seed initial efforts, such as finding insurance dollars to bring to the table. We have had situations where the historical insurance paid the deductible required by the fund, the fund monies kicked in and the insurance addressed dollars above the fund limit.

See how one dry cleaner’s state funding challenges were solved by insurance archeology

Our experience has been that dry cleaners, particularly dry cleaners that have been at their site since at least the early 1980’s, have an excellent opportunity to get the site investigation and remediation paid for by either their old insurance companies or other responsible parties. We have even conducted individual site investigations costing over $2,000,000 at no cost to individual dry cleaners by using liability insurance policies from the 1980’s to pay for contamination problems. After successfully working on over 200 dry cleaning sites nationwide, we have helped settle over $500,000,000 in insurance coverage claims, including individual projects in excess of $44,000,000. There’s no reason why contamination has to destroy the value of a dry cleaning business when there are viable solutions available.

To find out if historical insurance assets are an available funding avenue for you, contact us for a confidential consultation.

Dru Carlisle, Director of Drycleaner Accounts
For over 10 years, Dru has helped numerous business and property owners facing regulatory action, navigate and manage their environmental liability. Dru has vast experience in assisting dry cleaners in securing funding for their environmental cleanups through historical insurance policies. Dru is a member of numerous drycleaning associations in addition to serving on the Midwest Drycleaning and Laundry Institute (MWDLI) advisory council and on the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute Board (DLI) as an Allied Trade District Committee Member.

How Insurance Archeology Can Assist Dry Cleaners When Environmental Contamination Claims Threaten Their Business


old files on shelves found during insurance archeology


Once I met with a dry cleaner who said he had gone to the attic in search of his old business package policies. He explained that he had no idea before visiting an attorney that these old expired insurance policies could be of any use to him. Since they were package policies, they contained multiple lines of insurance. Parts of the policy provided coverage against damage to his building, against break-ins, storm damage and even workers compensation coverage. As far as he knew all of this coverage had long ago expired. Why would he still have copies of these old policies? There was no reason, he thought, that he would want to have kept them. They would have to be in a box or two that he had neglected to put in the dumpster.


He had been told by his attorney to look for that part of the policy that addressed damage to the property of others. Not damage to others he might do in his delivery van. That was covered under the automobile insurance section of the policy. Rather, it was the part of the policy that covered his customers (the slip and fall coverage) that he was looking for. His attorney had told him that part of the old package policies could provide him the coverage he needed now to address the environmental contamination on his property from perchloroethylene (Perc) spills below ground that had occurred years earlier.


It was these Perc spills that apparently had caused all the trouble. The landlord, a strip mall owner, had been refinancing and the bank required that he conduct a simple environmental audit that had included soil sampling. The samples had shown Perc in the soil at his end of the strip mall. The landlord was going to have to clean this up to get his refinancing. The cleanup would be expensive and the dry cleaner was expected to take care of the bill because he was the one who had accidentally put the Perc into the soil over the many years of his operation there. The attorney had assured the dry cleaner that this was indeed legal. The law in his state required that “the polluter” remove the pollution or at least reimburse the landlord if he had to have it done. Up until this time, the dry cleaner had not considered himself a polluter–it was a new role he was going to have to get used to before this nightmare would be over.


His attorney had explained that in his state, as in most states, it took policies issued before 1986 to pay for environmental investigations. This was because the later policies contained pollution exclusions that the courts in his state recognized as barring coverage for Perc spills. Paying the landlord’s environmental experts was likely to be too great for the dry cleaner to handle. After years of operating a successful business, he had significant savings, but these ongoing costs could deplete that savings account in no time. He may even need to consider bankruptcy unless he could find those insurance policies issued before 1986, and successfully file claims that would require his insurers to step in and defend him.

Learn more about old CGL policies by visiting Historical Commercial General Liability (CGL) Policies 101


Digging around in the attic, he succeeded in finding one collection of old policies, but these policies dated only to the late 1990s. Telephoning the insurance agent identified on the policies, the dry cleaner found that that insurance agency was no longer in business. Despairing, he reported his lack of success to the attorney, prepared to discuss bankruptcy instead of insurance recovery. However, the attorney suggested another option. He suggested that the dry cleaner hire an insurance archeologist to see what insurance might be located elsewhere.

Direct of Investigations at Policyfind David O'Neill conducting insurance archeology in office
Dave O’Neill, JD, Director of Investigations at PolicyFind, reviews historical policies.

Working backward from the earliest insurance policy, the insurance archeologist was able to discover that another insurance agency had purchased the defunct agency’s book of business prior to closing.

Contacting that insurance agency, the archeologist found that old policy files no longer existed, but that the agent would permit him to review his old accounting files. A review of these files identified some premium notices issued to the dry cleaner in 1985. These notices identified the policy numbers, dates and insurance carrier.

The insurance archeologist provided a specimen policy issued by the same insurance carrier to a different dry cleaner in his state from the 1985 policy period. This policy had a pollution exclusion on it but that exclusion, the attorney advised, was not a bar to coverage as long as the Perc releases had not been intentional, and had been “sudden and accidental.”

Using the premium notices and specimen policy together, the dry cleaner’s attorney was able to file a claim with the insurance company. The company stepped in to defend the dry cleaner, paid his attorney fees and paid the landlord’s environmental experts.


Don’t give up. Get some professional help and look under every rock. Ask your attorney about how insurance archeology can help you locate the records you need to defend against environmental claims.

To find out if you have historical assets, contact us for a Confidential Insurance Archeology® consultation.

As seen in Cleaner and Launderer

Headshot of EnviroForensics CEO Stephen HenshawStephen Henshaw, Founder at EnviroForensics & PolicyFind has over 30+ years of experience and holds professional registrations in numerous states. Henshaw serves as a client manager and technical manager on complex projects involving contaminated and derelict properties, creative litigation, deceased landowners, tax liens, non-performing banknotes, resurrecting defunct companies and cost recovery. Henshaw’s expertise includes a comprehensive understanding of past and current industry and waste handling practices and the fate and transport of chlorinated solvents in soil and groundwater. He has served as a testifying expert for plaintiffs and defendants on high profile cases involving causation and timing of releases, contaminant dispersion, allocation, damages, past costs, and closure estimates. He has a strong knowledge of state and federal regulations, insurance law, RCRA, and CERCLA. He has managed several hundred projects including landfills, solvent and petroleum refineries, foundries, metal plating shops, food processors, dry cleaners, wood treating facilities, chemical distribution facilities, aerospace manufacturing facilities, and transporters and provides strategy instrumental in funding projects and moving them to closure.

Headshot of PolicyFind's Director of Investigations, David O'NeillDavid O’Neill, JD, Director of Investigations at PolicyFind has 30+ years of experience in claims recovery on behalf of corporate policyholders involving environmental property damage and toxic tort and asbestos exposure claims. O’Neill has extensive experience in locating and retrieving insurance coverage evidence on behalf of potentially responsible parties responding to environmental investigation and remediation demands. His former investigative work includes unique matters involving Holocaust victims rights, mergers & acquisitions of a national landfill operator, and on matters involving national archives.

A Dry Cleaner’s State Funding Challenges Solved by Insurance Archeology

Insurance archeology solves funding issues for a dry cleaner who was distressed by the lack of effectiveness of his state’s environmental response fund.

This is the story of a Wisconsin dry cleaner who wanted to retire, but his property was plagued with environmental contamination and funding challenges despite his enrollment in Wisconsin’s Dry Cleaner Environmental Response Fund (DERF). Here’s how he found a way to get his unsellable property clean and ready for redevelopment.

The Discovery of PERC Contamination

The dry cleaner was in operation from 1968-2001 and throughout that time tetrachloroethene (PERC), a dry cleaning chemical, was used to clean its customers’ clothes. PERC became a common dry cleaning chemical in the 1930s and is now less frequently used in dry cleaning operations due to concerns for worker health and the environment.

Engaging the DERF

In 2001, the dry cleaner decided to retire and utilize the Wisconsin DERF so he could sell his business. The fund was contributed to through a license fee and a solvent fee by dry cleaners. Luckily, the dry cleaner owner contributed to the DERF program while in business and was eligible to utilize the funds for his investigation and remediation. 

In hopes of selling his dry cleaning business to a buyer, he had to conduct an initial environmental investigation to begin the environmental due diligence process and gain access to his DERF reimbursements.

Working with the State’s Environmental Response Trust Fund

From 2002-2011, the dry cleaner paid for his clean up activities out-of-pocket while waiting for his reimbursements to come through from the DERF program. He contracted an environmental firm to conduct Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESA), but the environmental firm’s work was constricted to a very slow pace due to the slow payments from DERF. 

By 2014, the dry cleaner was well into his retirement and was no longer running his business, but he still needed to clean up the environmental contamination in order to sell the property. After spending roughly $250,000 out-of-pocket for his environmental investigation and remediation work, he had completely run out of personal funds. He could no longer pay for any additional work upfront and he could no longer wait on reimbursements from DERF.

Learn how state-funded environmental cleanups programs are being phased out.


Contacting local dry cleaning association for help

After the frustration the dry cleaner experienced with the DERF program, he contacted the Wisconsin Fabricare Institute (WFI), part of the national Drycleaning and Laundry Institute (DLI), for help on how to get him through this predicament. WFI recommended contacting EnviroForensics and its insurance archeology division, PolicyFind to find alternative funding sources.

Engaging with EnviroForensics

PolicyFind conducted insurance archeology to locate the dry cleaner’s old insurance policies. They evaluated the dry cleaner’s historical commercial general liability (CGL) policies and developed an insurance claim strategy to access funding that could be used to complete the environmental investigation and remediation–so he could finally sell his property. 

To recap, in order to solve the dry cleaner’s financial challenges, PolicyFind:

  1. Conducted Confidential Insurance Archeology® to find the insurance coverage that would pay for the cleanup.
  2. Tendered the insurance claim with the insurance carrier, which led to the carrier confirming that the insurance would pay for the environmental work.

The switch from using DERF funds to historical insurance coverage to pay for the environmental work allowed the dry cleaner to finally clean up his property, which was a precursor for being able to sell his property.

The environmental investigation and remediation process

Once the insurance archeology funds were secured, EnviroForensics completed the remaining site investigation activities which included soil and groundwater delineation as well as vapor intrusion assessments. The results showed that there was soil contamination, which required additional remediation to gain site closure. Geologists and engineers developed a remediation plan to demolish the building and remove the existing contamination. EnviroForensics conducted a soil excavation and removed approximately 400 pounds of PERC and 670 tons of contaminated soil.

The amount of perc and contaminated soil from one dry cleaner is shown in the above two graphics. It’s astonishing to see the physical evidence from three decades of small and accidental releases of perc from a dry cleaner.


After the remediation, EnviroForensics completed a Phase I ESA to prepare the property for resale and helped the former dry cleaner find an investor to purchase the property, who took on the remaining environmental liability, which included ongoing environmental monitoring.

EnviroForensics helped find a buyer

Since the majority of the environmental work was complete and the CGL insurance policies had enough funding for the ongoing environmental monitoring, the investor felt comfortable working with EnviroForensics to settle the environmental claim and continue cleaning up the property.

Map overview of the former dry cleaner in Appleton, Wisconsin.


A New Life for the Property

The ongoing site work facilitated the sale of the property and future redevelopment plans are underway for potential reuse as a commercial office building. 

The former dry cleaner site is nearing the end of its investigation and remediation work. The closure of the site, under the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), is anticipated after minor investigation follow-up activities and continued environmental monitoring by 2021.

EnviroForensics is the most trusted environmental consultant in the dry cleaning industry. Learn more about our services for dry cleaners.


EnviroForensics® is a full-service environmental consulting firm that has cleaned up more dry cleaning sites than any other firm. We’re the only firm that focuses on finding the money to pay for investigation, cleanup, and legal fees. We restore the value of your property while protecting you from regulatory and legal issues.

State-Funded Environmental Cleanup Programs for Dry Cleaners are Endangered–What is Taking Their Place?



Some Funds are either running out of money or have already sunset. What is the dry cleaning industry turning to for the money needed to respond to environmental liability? Dry cleaners are increasingly using their historical insurance policies to pay for environmental cleanup claims—protecting their business from financial ruin or bankruptcy.

The dry cleaning industry has seen more than its fair share of costly and complicated environmental contamination issues. In the past, eligible dry cleaners in almost 25% of the United States have been able to use money from state trust funds that were established solely for this purpose. Unfortunately, these state trust funds have proven to be not sustainable in most situations, and the number of available funds is declining. In the coming years, it’s anticipated that those looking to the state fund programs will experience even more delays in reimbursement of money already spent out-of-pocket, and or will lose the fund altogether.

Who is potentially impacted by this news? Any dry cleaner in Alabama, Connecticut, Illinois, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, or Wisconsin.

This is frightening news for dry cleaners in these states, who are liable for cleaning up environmental contamination caused by cleaning solvents like PCE (Perc) or TCE. However, another financial solution is still available to dry cleaners—their historical Commercial General Liability (CGL) insurance policies. By finding their historical insurance policies, dry cleaners can use them as assets to help pay for their environmental investigation and cleanup. Those residing in states without trust funds have been doing it for years.

Historical insurance policies are valuable assets that you can use to get money to pay for resolving environmental issues.

Commercial general liability (CGL) policies provide coverage to businesses for bodily injury, personal and property damage caused the business’ operations, products, or injury that occurs on the business’ premises. Most every business has old CGL policies since they are commonly purchased as a necessity to cover potential costs incurred by defending and reasonably resolving suits seeking to hold them liable for alleged bodily injuries or property damage.

Historical Commercial General Liability (CGL) policies from before 1985-86 typically don’t have a clause that disallows coverage for releases of contaminants. This means that if a dry cleaner can find their or their predecessor’s old insurance assets, then those policies can pay for the environmental investigation and cleanup required by the state’s environmental regulatory agency. Additionally, the policies would likely protect dry cleaners from any neighbors who decide to sue them for damage to their property. These policies also entitle dry cleaners to hire an environmental defense attorney at no charge and receive insurance payments immediately without upfront payments, unlike most state trust funds.

Once triggered historical commercial general liability (CGL) policies can be used to recoup or pay for 1) site investigation, 2) remediation/cleanup, 3) interim remedial measures, 4) building a legal case, 5) responsible party search, 6) interfacing with agencies, 7) defense against legal claims, and 8) legal fees. To learn more about CGL policies, visit How Does It Work? CGL Policies and Insurance Archeology.

Insurance archeologists conduct insurance archeology to find lost or misplaced liability insurance policies that can defend and indemnify policyholders against claims such as environmental property damage claims.

EnviroForensics® is the nation’s leader in finding and using historical insurance coverage. Our insurance archeology division, PolicyFind™, has decades of experience identifying and locating lost, mislaid, or destroyed liability insurance policies for policyholders. 

First, insurance archeologists retrace the genealogy of historical insurance coverage to identify past owners and operators who may have contributed or caused personal injury or environmental damage. 

Next, they use an extensive specimen policy library to help confirm terms and conditions, research data services, and physical file searches to follow leads and locate evidence of old insurance policies. 

And finally, the results of the insurance archeology process are assembled into insurance coverage charts, which visually reconstruct the CGL insurance policies.

This is an example of a typical Insurance Coverage Chart that has reconstructed historical insurance policies from 1960 to 1990. The policies include general liability policies and excess/umbrella liability policies. This particular coverage shows property damage aggregate limits per policy period and what carriers are liable for from the policyholder’s coverage period.

The rebuilding of historical land use and insurance can limit the liability of individual clients. Initiating coverage from these policies thereby creates an alternative funding source, which can protect a business from severe financial loss and even save a company from bankruptcy. 

“If historical insurance policies are lost or misplaced, PolicyFind’s expert insurance archeologists will find the needed evidence of their existence and create a legally defensible historical insurance coverage chart—saving a dry cleaner’s livelihood,” says Jeff Carnahan, President of EnviroForensics.

Once identified and brought to light, the coverage provided by old insurance policies can be used to hire an environmental consulting firm with specialized expertise in serving the dry cleaning industry by cleaning up its historical environmental pollution problems.

EnviroForensics® is the nation’s leading environmental engineering firm serving dry cleaners. EnviroForensics is the only full-service environmental firm that performs insurance archeology to locate money to pay for environmental investigation, cleanup, and legal fees. EnviroForensics helps clients get their cleanups paid for without significant cost to the clients or their businesses while restoring their property to fair market value.

To find out if historical insurance assets are an available funding avenue for you, contact us for a confidential consultation. 

Dru Carlisle, Director of Drycleaner Accounts
For over 10 years, Dru has helped numerous business and property owners facing regulatory action, navigate and manage their environmental liability. Dru has vast experience in assisting dry cleaners in securing funding for their environmental cleanups through historical insurance policies. Dru is a member of numerous drycleaning associations in addition to serving on the Midwest Drycleaning and Laundry Institute (MWDLI) advisory council and on the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute Board (DLI) as an Allied Trade District Committee Member.

Historical Commercial General Liability (CGL) Policies 101

Commercial General Liability (CGL) Policies protect your business from financial loss should you be liable for property damage or personal injury caused by your services, business operations or your employees. CGL policies are sometimes referred to as “slip and fall policies” or “everyday business insurance” because they provide liability insurance coverage for general business risks. 

What does historical commercial general liability insurance cover?

Historical CGL policies, once located and leveraged, typically cover the costs of your legal defense and will pay on your behalf of damages if you are found liableup to the limits of your policy. CGL coverage is important due to the negative impact that a lawsuit can have on your business and because liability suits can happen so frequently. 

Insurance companies have a duty to defend, which means they’re obligated to provide the insured policyholder with defense against claims made under a liability insurance policy. As a general rule, the insured policyholder needs only to establish that there is potential for coverage under a policy to begin the process for the insurance carrier’s duty to defend. 

Why are historical commercial general liability policies valuable?

You or your predecessor’s historical CGL policies are valuable assets because you can use the policies to pay for resolving environmental liabilities. 

Facts about CGL Policies

  1. CGL policies insure business owners against claims for property damage like environmental contamination and bodily injury.
  2. CGL policies written prior to 1985-86 have a clause that creates an exception for “sudden and accidental” releases of contaminants.
  3. Applicable CGL policies never expire.
  4. Older CGL policies can cover long-tail claims, such as environmental investigation, cleanup, and legal counsel fees.
  5. Old CGL policies are still valuable even if a company is bankrupt or a former owner is deceased.

Once triggered historical commercial general liability (CGL) policies can be used to recoup or pay for 1) site investigation, 2) remediation/cleanup, 3) interim remedial measures, 4) building a legal case, 5) responsible party search, 6) interfacing with agencies, 7) defense against legal claims, and 8) legal fees. To learn more about CGL policies, visit How Does It Work? CGL Policies and Insurance Archeology.

Depending on your situation and the state in which you conduct business, the out-of-pocket environmental cleanup costs may be minimal. This is why historical CGL policies are valuable assets that may be worth millions of dollars. 

An insurance archeologist searches old file boxes in a company’s basement. 

Biggest tips for proving historical CGL coverage

Keep everything! Many types of old records can result in leads, which could assist your insurance archeologist in locating valuable insurance assets. Sometimes what seems to be irrelevant is actually very valuable. 

Hire an insurance archeologist. Insurance policies are complex contracts between the insured policyholder and the insurance carrier, which requires a trained eye to interpret and understand the nuances of case law. 

To find out if you have historical assets, contact us for a Confidential Insurance Archeology® consultation. 



Kristen Brown brings more than a decade of research and managerial experience in broadcast journalism to the field of insurance archeology. Since joining the PolicyFind team in 2015, Ms. Brown has successfully documented liability insurance programs on behalf of municipalities, manufacturers and dry cleaners. She continues to translate her expertise in source procurement and digital fact-finding, performing insurance research activities at a very high level, providing on-time execution of contracted performance goals.

Does Your Portfolio Have Liability Issues?

Environmental liability can complicate and even derail acquisitions while unexpected liabilities can significantly affect a company’s bottom line. But old insurance policies may hold hidden assets and could remove your unwanted liability issues.

To get started, first answer the following questions to determine if your portfolio has liability issues.

  1. Are contamination issues preventing an acquisition or land purchase?
  2. Have you considered using the old insurance owned by companies that you’ve purchased or are considering?
  3. Does your portfolio include old manufacturing sites?
  4. Are any of your companies paying for environmental investigation and cleanup?
  5. Are environmental liabilities impacting the balance sheet of any of your portfolio companies?
  6. Is environmental work being delayed or dragged out to preserve the EBITDA of any of your portfolio companies?

For an explanation of commonly used environmental terms in M&A, visit our Common Environmental Terms in Mergers and Acquisitions post.

If your portfolio has deals which involve environmental liabilities, we can help you save them. We’ve found over $5 billion in usable assets for clients since 2008. Through our unique insurance archaeology division, PolicyFind™, we reconstruct historical insurance coverage, locate funding for cleanup costs and legal defense against third-party liabilities. We manage environmental claims, provide remediation services and offer guaranteed cost-cap cleanups to effectuate a transaction.

Fill out our contact form for a confidential consultation.

How Does It Work? Insurance Archeology and CGL Policies



Over 25 years ago, EnviroForensics and PolicyFind’s CEO Steve Henshaw, P.G. discovered the power contained within historical commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policies in the face of a lawsuit or an environmental issue. Henshaw discovered and has since proven, that using a company’s historical CGL insurance policy is an effective funding source to pay for the expensive cost of investigating and cleaning up environmental contamination.


CGL insurance policies are purchased by business owners to cover them against their business’ liability exposures. This is very important in determining whether an individual or business’ old insurance policies can be used to pay for environmental investigations and clean-ups.

This makes CGL policies very important protection for corporate policyholders because they broadly provide defense and indemnity coverage against claims for bodily injury and property damage. Coverage includes products, completed operations, premises, and operations, elevators, and independent contractors, to name a few.

Tabs of old insurance files that can be used as evidence of historical insurance coverage
Hiring a proven Insurance Archeologist can help your company uncover millions of dollars in usable insurance assets to cover legal fees and pay for investigation and remediation of environmental contamination.


In general, CGL policies have included and even excluded environmental pollution and contamination language like “unexpected and unintended releases.” Such unexpected and unintended releases mean accidental releases or accidental spills, not intentional releases, which would be better defined as dumping or disposing. CGL policies were not covering individuals and businesses for pollution or contamination associated with dry cleaning operations. A separate environmental policy would be required to cover environmental pollution and contamination.

So, if you or your business bought CGL insurance before the policies contained absolute pollution exclusion language, you are likely to have insurance coverage that can address environmental contamination, even if that contamination has only been recently discovered.

In addition, old policies provide a defense against a claim or suit. In some states, a claim or suit could be a letter from the regulatory agency or a neighboring property owner demanding a response to identified environmental contamination. In other states, the courts have determined that the insurers must only defend an actual lawsuit.

‘OK’, you might ask, ‘that sounds great, but what if I can’t find my old policies or policies that were bought by the former owners?’ Well, those old policies can still be found. While there is no guarantee, contacting an expert insurance archeologist increases your chances of finding old policies or evidence of old policies. PolicyFind, a division of EnviroForensics, boasts an 85% success rate at finding old insurance policies or evidence of old policies.

Insurance archeologist looking over old insurance files in front of sunlit window
Insurance archeologists have the knowledge-base to find evidence of CGL policies, and advise clients on how those policies can be used. Frequently clients say hiring an Insurance Archeology team was one of the best investments they’ve made and helped further their company’s success.


After finding the old policies, it is then critical that you know how to use these policies to your benefit. Insurance law is different from state to state and not every state has good law for the policyholder. Insurance policies contain different language which can vary by carrier and by policy period.

In pulling this concept together:

  • A defense includes paying for lawyers dealing with the environmental contamination. A defense would also include quantifying an individual or business’ exposure and liability. The only way to quantify environmental liability is to collect environmental samples (e.g. soil, soil gas, indoor vapor, groundwater). It would also mean determining how expensive a cleanup would be, which means that, aquifer tests, feasibility studies and remediation technology evaluation should be covered.
  • Indemnification is the process where the insurer brings the insured back to where they were before the damages occurred, as stipulated within the insuring agreement. In other words, indemnification makes the insured ‘whole’ again by paying for damages or losses already sustained and expenses already incurred.


Historical insurance policies can be beneficial in providing coverage for a number of different situations. For example:

  • Plumbing and building supply companies defending product liability claims from exposure to products sold containing asbestos.
  • Municipalities involved in litigation.
  • Manufacturers of pumps defending product liability claims from exposure to asbestos gaskets.
  • Churches and schools defending personal injury claims.
  • Dry cleaners defending against environmental property damage claims brought by neighboring business property owners.
  • Business property owners defending property damage claims by state environmental authorities.
  • Insurance companies defending policyholders against environmental property damage claims and wishing to document insurance coverage of other potentially responsible parties.
  • Real estate developers, environmental consultants, attorneys and regulatory agencies.


Infographic illustrating the what commercial general liability policies can be used to pay for, such as environmental and defense costs.
Once triggered historical commercial general liability (CGL) policies may be used to for legal fees, defense against claims, site investigation, remediation/cleanup, interim remedial measures, building legal case, potentially responsible parties (PRP) search, interfacing with agencies and prior costs be may be retroactively recovered.

The process of using old insurance policies has many parts. There may be an insurance archeology component, a legal component and an environmental component and they all have to work together. Understanding all aspects of the process is not your job, that’s why you hire experts to uncover your insurance assets.

EnviroForensics and PolicyFind have successfully used the historical insurance of businesses, individuals and even defunct and bankrupt companies as sources of funding to pay for the investigation and cleanup of contaminated sites.

There are billions of dollars in unclaimed assets available to parties looking to defend environmental claims and personal injury claims. PolicyFind works diligently every day to put the power of the policy back in the policyholder’s hands – where it belongs.

Call PolicyFind’s insurance archeology experts today at 866-888-7911 or fill out our form.

PolicyFind clients commonly face immense challenges and deadlines, and they rely on our strengths to provide solutions for them. Our team understands the unique set of circumstances that businesses face when liabilities from past business operations arise. With our help, they can overcome their inevitable feelings of anxiety, powerlessness, and uncertainty.



Headshot of Kristen BrownKristen Drake brings more than a decade of research and managerial experience in broadcast journalism to the field of insurance archeology. Since joining the PolicyFind team in 2015, Mrs. Drake has successfully documented liability insurance programs on behalf of municipalities, manufacturers and dry cleaners. She continues to translate her expertise in source procurement and digital fact-finding, performing insurance research activities at a very high level, providing on-time execution of contracted performance goals.

How EnviroForensics Transformed a Brownfields Site into Their HQ


Metropolitan cities across America have experienced a renaissance over the past 15 to 20 years with new construction and development of Brownfields, and nowhere is this more prevalent than in the City of Indianapolis. Laid out in a grid, Indianapolis is partitioned into sections and intersected by freeways like spokes on a wheel — creating the “Crossroads of America.”

Over the years, patches of each quadrant have seen a slow, deliberate wave of redevelopment and revitalization wash over it. Factories have been replaced with luxury apartments and hotels, warehouses have been transformed into office buildings and craft breweries and old garages are getting second lives as art galleries, restaurants and grocery stores. These buildings are a natural fit for adaptive reuse with their large footprints and timeless architectural features and their redevelopment brings commerce and excitement to distressed areas. The biggest hurdle standing in the way of most of these revitalization efforts is potential environmental hazards left behind from years of industrial operation. We manage environmental cleanups to revitalize these properties all the time. It’s what we do for our clients every day. But, in this particular case, it’s what we did for ourselves and for the surrounding North Meridian Neighborhood in Indianapolis.

North Meridian Neighborhood Map
The North Meridian Neighborhood starts a block north of I-65 and runs south to New York Street, just two blocks north of Monument Circle. Courtesy: Downtown Indy.

Brownfields Site History: An Old Transmissions Garage

The 825 N. Capitol building operated as a transmission and automotive repair shop for decades and it sits on a stretch of Capitol Avenue just a few blocks north of the Indiana Statehouse, and right across the street from the famous Litho Press Building, now a luxury apartment complex. We originally purchased the building to store our equipment and company trucks. In a few short months, we found ourselves needing more space for our employees and we decided to use the space to build a new corporate headquarters.

825 N Capitol Building as a Brownfields site in 2015
825 N. Capitol Building in the fall of 2015.

The unassuming cinder-block structure with a limestone façade was first constructed in the 1930s and because it operated as an auto repair shop, there were unexpected spills and releases of oils and solvents that found their way into the soil and groundwater.  In addition to specific source contamination, groundwater beneath the building was also impacted from an unknown upgradient source.

Seeing the Brownfields Site Potential for Redevelopment

In 2000, EnviroForensics opened its Indianapolis office with three people in the old Stutz Auto Building, which is the “original” Indianapolis Brownfield Redevelopment, made up of nearly 100 offices and art studios of various size and configuration. By 2010, the office grew in size and was relocated to another old warehouse at 602 N. Capitol, above an active dry cleaner. As the city downtown grew and parking became more scarce, management found an old automotive repair company at 825 N. Capitol Ave. to store its trucks and equipment. By 2016, EnviroForensics was bursting at the seams with staff jammed in the main office and several satellite offices located in nearby buildings. By this time, EnviroForensics had grown to over 60 people and it was pretty clear that they needed to consolidate the team and find a new office space. After assessing the financial implications of renting more office space and committing to a new lease, it became clear that the old automotive repair building could be remediated and refurbished as the corporate headquarters.

“We wanted to make a statement with our headquarters about conservation, reuse and giving back to the community. Not only did we want to create a great environment for our team to work in, we wanted to reuse a structure that had once been a thriving part of the local economy and assist the neighborhood in maintaining its industrial legacy and heritage.”

Rising to the Redevelopment Challenge

The 825 N. Capitol Avenue property needed serious updates. Not only was the building divided into separate structures, old and in disrepair, but in order to get financing from the bank for the construction build out the soil and groundwater quality beneath the building needed to be assessed and remediated and the employees occupying the new building needed to be protected from potentially harmful vapors emanating from the soil and groundwater beneath the building. From a construction standpoint, the property had many issues, which included:

Construction on front of 825 N. Capitol Building
The front facade’s tenuous connection to the rest of the structure.

wires and grout on front of building
Eroding wires and weathered grout were the only things holding the front of the building together.

Construction worker removing built-up gravel from roof
There were significant roof issues with the built-up tar and gravel that had been in place for decades.

cars and trucks parked in building
The building was still in a two-unit configuration from its days as a transmissions garage and a costume warehouse, and there wasn’t a safe way to travel between the two buildings without having to go outside.

Redeveloping Our Brownfields Site With Insurance Archeology

For us, dealing with the environmental issues was relatively painless, as we conducted the research of the historical operations and we were able to find the old Commercial General Liability (CGL) policies of the past owners and operators. Because the soil and groundwater was contaminated, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management demanded that the site be fully assessed and understood and that soil vapors be routed from beneath the subsurface concrete slab to the roof line, so they did not build up and create an indoor health hazard. In tendering the insurance carriers of the former owners and operators, we were able to get the old insurance carriers to pay for all of the environmental and legal costs required to get the building squared away from an environmental standard and satisfy the banks concerns regarding the soil and groundwater contamination.

To learn more about how CGL policies can work for you, read How Does It Work? Insurance Archeology and CGL Policies.

While remediation efforts were ongoing, we contracted Brandt Construction and Mawr Architecture and Interior Design to start work on shoring up the structural integrity of the building, and designing the eventual floor plan, so we could push the project forward as quickly as possible. The Brandt crew turned the two buildings into one by:

Pre-construction stairway
The adjoining walls were torn down in four spots to connect the two buildings.

Worker installing supportive archway
Once the walls were opened up, Brandt Construction secured them with load bearing archways.

portion of second floor removed for stairway
Brandt Construction also connected the first and second floors with a custom-built stairway.

construction worker installing window in community room
And they erected a new facade along a portion of the roof to create what is now our open common area for company-wide meetings and gatherings.

Piping for mitigation system
To ensure the safety of the indoor air for our team, Vapor Protection Services (VPS) installed a passive mitigation system.

With the electric and water utilities installed, the skeletons of office walls put up, and the windows replaced, the bones of our building were complete.

Bringing Further Revitalization to the North Meridian Neighborhood

The new and improved EnviroForensics building is now a two story, 23,000 square foot office and community space with beautiful exposed brick walls, stylish edison bulb light fixtures, and plate glass room dividers.

825 N. Capitol building after renovation
The new and improved 825 N. Capitol Building where EnviroForensics’ 75 team members come to work every day.

The hallways are a celebration of Indiana artists with work from 13 Hoosier painters and photographers. We’re proud to have six different collaborative workspaces, including three conference rooms, and two dedicated kitchen areas for EnviroForensics’ 75 team members to both work and enjoy each other’s company.

front foyer and conference room in EnviroForensics headquarters
One of the first things you see as you enter is the Founder’s Room. One of six open collaborative workspaces in the EnviroForensics building. Courtesy: MAWR Architecture + Interior Design

Renovated kitchen and common area
The Community Room, where EnviroForensics team members gather for full staff meetings, meals, and other office-related fun. In its previous life, this room was part of the roof. Courtesy: MAWR Architecture + Interior Design

renovated archway and stairway
The two buildings are connected with four archways like this one (pictured left). Also pictured is the custom-built staircase (right), which required a portion of the floor to be removed and reinforced in order to install. Courtesy: MAWR Architecture + Interior Design

renovated front kitchen area
The Front Lounge is another multifunctional space for team members to collaborate on projects or meet for lunch. It features a number of works by Clotilde Embry Funk, a Hoosier artist who was an illustrator at the New York Times, and was one of the first females to work at the storied newspaper. Courtesy: MAWR Architecture + Interior Design

The North Meridian Neighborhood was slowly on the rise before we moved to our renovated office in August of 2016. The popular Indianapolis Cultural Trail is headquartered here, the popular Indianapolis Canal Walk is available for lunch time strolls, employees can grab a drink after work at Brew Link Brewing Company, luxury apartments are right across the street, and Myriad Fitness, a crossfit gym, is within a short walk. And, coming in late 2018, there will be an added infusion of culture with the renowned Phoenix Theater moving its operations to a new 20,000 square feet, state-of-the-art facility nestled at the corner of Illinois street and the Cultural Trail. We’re excited about the future, and hope that our contribution of keeping high-paying jobs in the area helps spur the continual redevelopment of downtown Indianapolis.

Contact us today to learn more about how EnviroForensics can help you develop Brownfields


Court Decision Deals Blow to Insurers Expressing Denial of Coverage

A recent New Jersey Superior Court decision added to the growing pile of jurisdictions that recognize the insurer’s denial of a duty to their insured under the “A Potentially Responsible Party (“PRP”) letter from the regulator doesn’t trigger coverage argument” as fatally flawed.

Cooper Industries, LLC v. Employers Ins. Of Wausau a Mutual Company, et al.[i] found plaintiff Cooper Industries served with a PRP letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) in regards to contamination of the Passaic River in Newark. Multiple parties had been identified as potentially contributing to the 17 miles of contaminated waterway, so the EPA suggested that Cooper Industries collaborate with the other PRPs to investigate and remediate the river. They also cautioned Cooper Industries that declining to participate would end in CERCLA proceedings being brought against it. As part of its response to EPA, Cooper Industries tendered a claim to its insurer, OneBeacon Insurance Company. OneBeacon’s response was a denial of coverage, justifying it with the well-worn excuse that a PRP letter isn’t a suit and therefore doesn’t trigger coverage.

Cooper Industries filed suit against OneBeacon and the court found that not only does an EPA PRP letter function as a suit, New Jersey had recognized that for over twenty years: Morton International Inc. v. General Accident and Indemnity Company of America[ii] established that ‘the actual or threatened use of legal process to coerce payment or conduct by a policyholder’ language included in the PRP letter was sufficient to trigger coverage. EPA’s PRP letter under CERCLA certainly contains the threat of legal process, including PRPs obligation to remove and remediate contamination, CERCLA’s strict liability with very few affirmative defenses, and possibility of extensive fines and damages.

Although there are certainly legitimate exceptions to coverage, the oft-repeated contention that a PRP letter doesn’t constitute a law suit triggering coverage is slowly but surely being driven towards extinction to the benefit of policyholders nationwide. If you or your company has received an EPA PRP letter, or you feel that you may be in a position of potentially receiving one in the future, your past general liability insurance policies may be of use. The search for potentially valuable, old general liability policies is a unique part of what we offer to our clients. This court decision adds more value to our efforts to find those policies, and assist our clients through what can often times be a very difficult process.
[i] Docket No. L-9284-11
[ii] 134 N.J. 1 (1993)

U.S. District Court Adds to Kiger Progeny

In a recent legal decision that reinforces existing case law in Indiana, Judge Jon E. DeGuilio of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana (Hammond Division) ruled in favor of a policy holder in an environmental contamination coverage dispute.

Old Republic Insurance Company v. Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority (No. 2:15-CV-281-JD) saw Old Republic seeking declaratory relief and reimbursement from the Airport Authority for defense costs expended in defending the Airport Authority against IDEM’s claims for investigation and cleanup of fifty-two separate different contaminants.

Old Republic argued that its non-specific pollution exclusion (which read “This policy does not cover claims directly or indirectly occasioned by, happening through or in consequence of:…(b) pollution and contamination of any kind whatsoever,” was distinguishable from language Indiana courts had previously identified as ambiguous (under Indiana law, which interprets insurance contracts as it would any other, ambiguity in coverage exclusions must be interpreted in a way that finds for coverage).

Although different than the absolute pollution exclusion by means of excluding “pollution” and “contamination” rather than the language found in American States v. Kiger 662 N.E.2d 945 (Ind. 1996) and its progeny, “pollutants and contaminants,” the district court was not convinced that the minor modification of the language was sufficient to overcome the Indiana Supreme Court’s approach. In the view of the Indiana Supreme Court, in the event that an insurer wishes to exclude coverage, it must specifically exclude the substances for which it would negate coverage; a moderate change of broad exclusionary language is insufficient to resolve the ambiguity Kiger and its progeny identified and held against its drafters.

Although Indiana is unique in the stringency of its courts’ identification of ambiguity in commercial general liability insurance contracts, this most recent decision simply adds another layer to the stratifying case law requiring insurance contracts to specifically identify hazards against which they will not insure.