(a) For the purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meaning:
(1) “Easement” means a conservation easement, as defined in Section 815.1 of the Civil Code.
(2) “Environmental assessment” means an investigation of real property, conducted by an independent qualified environmental consultant, to discover the presence or likely presence of a release or a threat of a release of a hazardous
substance at, on, to, or from the real property. An environmental assessment shall include, but is not limited to, an investigation of the historical use of the real property, any prior releases, records, consultant reports and regulatory agency correspondence, a visual survey of the real property, and, if warranted, sampling and analytical testing.
(3) “Owner” means either of the following:
(A) An independent special district, as defined in Section 56044 of the Government Code.
(B) An entity or organization that holds an easement.
(4) “Property” means either of the following:
(A) Real property acquired by a special district by means of a gift or donation for which an environmental
assessment was completed prior to the transfer or conveyance of the real property to the special district.
(B) An easement for which an environmental assessment was completed prior to the transfer or conveyance of the easement to an entity or organization authorized to accept the easement pursuant to Section 815.3 of the Civil Code.
(b) (1)Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, if an environmental assessment of property discovers no evidence of the presence or likely presence of a release or a threat of a release of a hazardous substance, and a hazardous substance release is subsequently discovered on, to, or from that property, the owner of that property is entitled to a rebuttable presumption, affecting the burden of producing evidence, that the owner is not a liable person or responsible party for purposes of this chapter. An owner is
entitled to this presumption whether the action is brought by the state or by a private party seeking contribution or indemnification.
(2) In an action brought against an owner of property to recover costs or expenditures incurred from the state account pursuant to this chapter in response to a hazardous substance release, the presumption may be rebutted if it is established by a preponderance of the evidence that the facts upon which the department made the certification pursuant to paragraph (1), (2), (3), or (4) of subdivision (c) are true.
(c) An action for recovery of costs or expenditures incurred from the state account pursuant to this chapter in response to a hazardous substance release shall not be brought against an owner of property unless the department first certifies that, as found by the department, one of the following situations applies:
(1) The hazardous substance release occurred on or after the date that the owner acquired the property.
(2) The hazardous substance release occurred before the date that the owner acquired the property and, at the time of the acquisition, the owner knew, or had reason to know, of the hazardous substance release.
(3) The environmental assessment applicable to the property was not properly carried out, was fraudulently completed, or involves the negligent or intentional nondisclosure of information.
(4) The hazardous substance release was discovered on or after the date of acquisition and the owner failed to exercise due care with respect to the release, taking into consideration the characteristics of the hazardous substance in light of all relevant facts
(d) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, this section governs liability pursuant to this chapter for an owner of property, as defined in subdivision (a).
(e) This section is applicable only to property that is acquired by the owner on or after January 1, 1995.