GASB Statement No. 49
The responsibility to clean up pollution or contamination – like a Superfund site or asbestos in a public school – poses significant obligations(Board, 2006). Governments are aware of these obligations long before any clean-up activities are started, but no information is included in their annual audited financial reports until after the clean-up has begun (Board, 2006). So, citizens, council members, bond analysts, and other financial report users might not know that those demands on a government’s resources exist (Board, 2006). This happens because there is no specific guidance for state and local governments about how to estimate and report the costs of pollution remediation (Board, 2006).
The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has issued Statement No. 49, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pollution Remediation Obligations, to provide that much needed guidance (Board, 2006). Statement No. 49, explains when pollution remediation-related obligations should be reported and how those obligations’ costs and liabilities should be determined (Board, 2006).
Statement No. 49 sets forth five events and circumstances that would determine if it has to report a remediation liability for potential obligations they are aware of:
Pollution poses a danger to the public or environment and a government has little or no discretion to avoid fixing the problem
A government violates a pollution prevention-related permit or license
A regulator identifies a government as responsible for cleaning up pollution, or for paying all or some of the cost for cleanup
A government is named in a lawsuit to compel it to address pollution
A government begins or legally obligates itself to begin a clean up or post clean-up activities
If a government knows a site is polluted and one or more of the triggers has occurred, then it would try to estimate the potential outlays for the cleanup (Board, 2006). If...