Helping Revitalize American Communities Through the Brownfields Program
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
Witness List (updated 7/20/15):
Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH)
July 22, 2015
Following the passage of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 – also known as Superfund – a new kind of property emerged: brownfields. Brownfields are properties where contamination was suspected, but unknown. These sites include inactive factories, gas stations, salvage yards, and many other previously used properties where possible environmental liability and cleanup standards prevented their continued use and redevelopment.
Fear of environmental liability at these sites caused developers to look outside cities to previously undeveloped properties for new opportunities. This left many sites untouched, driving down property values, contributing to blight, and providing no tax revenue to cities.
Both the states and EPA began looking for ways to more successfully address the concerns with potential contamination and get these sites back to productive use. In 1995, EPA issued demonstration grants to help assess sites to determine what cleanup might be needed. States, cities, and developers also began looking for better ways to address these sites.
In 2001, Congress created specific authority for dealing with brownfields. The Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act of 2001 amended the Superfund law and authorized funding to EPA to provide grants for assessment and cleanup, provided targeted liability relief for property owners, and increased federal support for the state and tribal programs that were already underway.
The authorization for brownfields grants under the Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act of 2001 expired at the end of fiscal year 2006, though Congress has continued to appropriate funds to the Brownfields Program.
To say this program has been a success is understating its achievements. As of June last year, EPA and the state and tribal programs have assessed more than 21,000 properties, completed over 99,450 cleanups, and made more than 900,000 acres ready for reuse. On average, $17.79 was leveraged for every EPA dollar spent on the Brownfields Program and nearly 106,000 jobs have been leveraged since the start of the program. Benefits of having these sites redeveloped include increased property values of between 5% and nearly 13%, and measurable environmental benefits such as fewer vehicle miles traveled and decreased stormwater runoff.
To quote a line from our upcoming witness from the Ohio EPA, Cindy Hafner, “Ohio has been blessed with a rich industrial history, which has resulted in a large number of brownfields that no one wanted to use.” I know Ohio is not alone in its appreciation for this important program.
The Brownfields Program has been a successful partnership between EPA, states, communities, investors, and developers. Because it applies to so many sites and generates such a high return on investment, it is an incredibly popular program throughout the country. But like any good program, there may be ways to make it more effective.