WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced bipartisan legislation to modernize and improve key elements of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields Program. Since 2002, the successful program has funded the rehabilitation of abandoned and polluted properties to increase safety and attract new businesses to communities. All four Senators are members of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, which oversees the Brownfields Program.
The “Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act of 2013” would improve the existing grant process by increasing the limit for cleanup grants and expanding grant eligibility for certain publicly owned sites and non-profit organizations. The bill would authorize EPA to make multi-purpose grants, which provide greater certainty for long-term project financing. In addition, the legislation identifies opportunities for waterfront properties and brownfield sites appropriate for clean energy development, allows grant recipients to collect administrative costs, and provides technical assistance to small, rural, and disadvantaged communities. States would also be eligible for additional targeted funding. Finally, the bill would reauthorize the program at current levels through FY 2016.
“The Brownfields Program has a proven track record of helping communities replace abandoned, polluted properties with new businesses, parks and residential areas. As we move forward, I am encouraged by the strong bipartisan support for this legislation to protect and strengthen the Brownfields Program,” said Lautenberg. “The continued revitalization and clean-up of abandoned properties will create communities where businesses prosper, jobs are created, and families are protected from dangerous chemicals. In New Jersey we have much to gain from turning old brownfields into new vibrant hubs to grow businesses and enhance communities, and I’ll keep working to pass this important redevelopment initiative.”
“The Brownfields program has been a tremendous help to Oklahoma, and I am proud to author the program’s reauthorization with Senator Lautenberg,” said Inhofe. “The program has helped communities throughout Oklahoma clean up buildings contaminated by lead paint, asbestos, and mold so that they can be successfully redeveloped. This reauthorization, among other things, will amend the program to allow small communities access to technical assistance and to streamline projects so that they can be completed more efficiently.”
“Smart development and revitalization of our urban areas require the transformation of sites that are contaminated by pollution and hazardous chemicals — often referred to as brownfields,” said Udall. “In New Mexico, we have a great history of turning brownfields around, like the Santa Fe Railyard and sites along Route 66. The BUILD Act will further expand our ability to turn these cherished areas into economically productive destinations and neighborhoods that will attract commerce and reduce unnecessary urban sprawl.”
“There are currently 224 brownfield eligible sites in Idaho from virtually every part of the state,” said Crapo. “This legislation would increase access to the brownfields grant programs for rural communities, a key change in the law pushed for by states with smaller populations.”
Brownfields sites are properties affected by the presence of environmental contamination such as hazardous waste or other pollution. These properties are often former industrial sites where contamination presents a health hazard. Even when Brownfields do not pose a threat to human health, the mere perception of contamination can discourage redevelopment. The Brownfields Program provides funding to clean up any contamination and prepare the site for redevelopment.
Since the inception of the Brownfields Program, EPA has provided approximately $1.5 billion in grants, which have leveraged $19.2 billion in additional investment. As a result, the Brownfields Program has assessed more than 20,000 properties and created more than 86,000 jobs nationwide. Despite these successes, the EPA estimates there are 450,000 brownfields sites across the United States. In New Jersey, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) estimates there are 10,000 brownfields sites in the state.
The legislation is supported by the National Brownfields Coalition, which includes the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities.