The EPA Brownfields program helped to remediate a former railroad line in Greenville, SC. Today that line is the Swamp Rabbit Trail, the backbone of an extensive pedestrian and bicycling trail system in the county. Photo via Flickr.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields program has helped hundreds of communities clean up and redevelop vacant and contaminated land known as brownfields. The program has not been an official part of the federal budget for several years, however. Last week the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) voted to change that.
On May 18, the EPW Committee approved the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act of 2015 (BUILD Act), which would reauthorize the EPA Brownfields program through 2018. Senator Jim Inhofe and Senator Edward Markey introduced the Act on June 2, 2015. Last week the bill passed on voice vote without amendment.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Brownfields program helps communities clean up and redevelop contaminated land and put it back into productive use. EPA Brownfield grants and assistance have helped turn former industrial sites into new parks, office buildings, performing arts centers, and more in communities across the country.
Although the program gets funding from Congress each year, it is not an official part of the federal budget. On April 21, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy held a hearing about the program, including what about it currently works well, what could be improved, and how the program helps communities handle issues like environmental liability concerns, financial barriers, cleanup considerations, and reuse planning.
Newark, NJ; Hamilton, OH; Jackson, TN win 2015 National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement from U.S. EPA
The City of Newark, NJ remediated the site of a former smelting plant to build a new—and now award-winning—park along the Passaic River. Photo via Archpaper.
Three cities have transformed the site of a former smelting plant, a neighborhood destroyed by tornado, and a near-empty historic downtown into vibrant, walkable places. Now, these projects have been recognized with the 2015 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Riverfront Park is the culmination of decades-long work to transform five miles of formerly industrial Passaic riverfront in Newark, NJ. The park’s land was once home to a smelting plant, and sat abandoned and unusable for years. Environmental remediation and an intensive public engagement process have created what will ultimately be 19 acres of parkland and Newark’s first—and so far only—public access to the Passaic River. In this community of color and predominantly low-income area, with few green spaces and a history of industrial pollution, the new park is game-changing. “When I was growing up, we had very few places to play, very few parks,” said Ana Baptista, a Newark resident, in EPA’s video about the project. “My daughters are going to grow up having a relationship to the water and the river that I didn’t have.”
On Wednesday the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing to examine the many benefits of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields program. The program has been funded for the past several years but is not a formally authorized part of the federal budget. Wednesday’s hearing examined whether that should change.
BEFORE AND AFTER: Atlantic Station in Midtown Atlanta was previously the site of an Atlantic Steel facility. The EPA’s Brownfields program helped make the redevelopment project possible.
Did you know that every federal dollar spent on brownfields cleanup leverages $17.79 in value for communities? And that redeveloping one acre of contaminated land creates an average of 10 jobs? These benefits don’t stop where the brownfield ends: the value of residential property near brownfield sites can increase anywhere from 5.1 to 12.8 percent when cleanup is complete.
These are just some of the many reasons why brownfields cleanup and redevelopment is a great investment of federal dollars, yet the Brownfields program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not formally authorized in the federal budget. Congress has the power to change that, and this week members of the House of Representatives will examine whether to do make brownfields cleanup an official part of the federal budget.
Harrison Commons in Harrison, NJ All across the country, in communities big and small, are remnants of an industrial past—underutilized land, often sitting vacant. When the Langdale and Riverdale textile mills closed in the 1990’s, Valley, Alabama not only lost …
Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty and Mayor Patricia Murphy of New Milford, CT visit New Milford’s Century Brass mill, a brownfield site, in 2014. Photos via The News-Times.
Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-CT-5) is fighting hard to reinstate a tax incentive to help cleaning up contaminated land more affordable and more feasible.
Late last month, Esty introduced the Brownfields Redevelopment Tax Incentive Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2002), a bill to re-establish the Brownfields Tax Incentive which ended in 2011.
Originally signed into law in 1997 and codified through Section 198(h) of the Internal Revenue Service’s tax code, the Incentive allowed taxpayers to fully deduct the costs of brownfield sites’ environmental cleanup the year the costs were incurred—making the arduous process more affordable for those who take it on.
Smart Growth America’s National Brownfields Coalition is the only national campaign dedicated to advocating for brownfields cleanup and redevelopment in Washington today. We encourage members of Congress and the Administration to support legislation and direct investment in brownfields cleanup and redevelopment.
Brownfields cleanup is a win-win-win-win: it creates jobs, spurs broader economic revitalization, helps people lead healthier lives, and protects the environment—all for a modest public investment. That’s something legislators on both sides of the aisle and from every state can get behind.
Made up of over 6,000 elected officials, professionals, business leaders, and advocates, the National Brownfields Coalition is the leading voice uniting the brownfields movement. We are proud to be at the forefront of this important national movement, and we welcome new allies to join our work.
The Double Wide Grill in Pittsburgh, PA was built in a former gas station building with help from the EPA Brownfields Program. Photo by EPA Smart Growth via Flickr.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced three grant programs for 2015 to help clean up land contaminated by petroleum and hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants.
Brownfields Assessment Grants provide funding for developing inventories of brownfields, prioritizing sites, conducting community involvement activities and conducting site assessments and cleanup planning related to brownfield sites. Individual grants go up to $200,000.
Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the fiscal year 2015 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill. The legislation would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overall funding by 9 percent in addition to cutting funding for EPA programs important to helping communities advance smart growth solutions.