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Brownfields identified as priority by EPA
Kirill Abbakumov   on Thursday, November 2, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

On October 5, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft of its strategic plan, which establishes work on brownfield sites as a key agency priority goal for 2018 and 2019. Cleaning up brownfield sites and returning them to public and business is expected to further benefit the environment, the communities where they are located, and create jobs that grow the economy.

Since 1995, the EPA has been administering federal brownfields grants that provide funds for inspection and cleanup of contaminated sites so that they can be used in redevelopment projects. Cleaning up a blighted property has both environmental and economic benefits including raising overall property values. Studies estimate that for every acre that is redeveloped, it produces an estimated 10 jobs and saves 4.5 acres of open space.

Cleaning up brownfields can also increase property values by 5-15% and for each public dollar spent and attract more than $17 in private investor funding. The federal government Accountability Office estimates there are 425,000 of these types of properties, such as abandoned strip malls, gas stations, dry cleaners, junkyards, warehouses, and industrial properties, across the United States.

Several brownfields reauthorization bills are awaiting action in Congress. Typically, the brownfields program is budgeted at about $160 million per year. The House of Representatives bills are:

  • The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved the Brownfields Reauthorization Act of 2017 (R. 1758) which would reauthorize the EPA’s brownfields redevelopment program at $200 million a year.
  • The House Committee on Energy and Commerce passed the Brownfields Enhancement, Economic Redevelopment and Reauthorization Act of 2017 (R. 3017) which would extend liability protections for local governments that acquire brownfields.
  • In the Senate, a bill introduced by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) was placed on the Senate legislative calendar Sept. 7.

The two House committees are in the process of negotiating a compromise between the two bills.

To learn more about how to redevelop brownfields, please visit www.brownfields2017.org, an initiative by the National Association of Counties (NACo).