Brownfields Program Critical to State and Local Community Economic Redevelopment
WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Environment, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), today held a hearing examining a discussion draft of a Brownfields reauthorization bill that seeks to make several improvements to the Brownfields Program.
Brownfields are often abandoned, closed, or under-utilized industrial or commercial facilities, such as an abandoned factory in a town, a closed commercial building or warehouse, or a former dry cleaning establishment or gas station. EPA estimates that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S., and each of these sites has the potential to encourage economic development through the Brownfields Program. The committee and #SubEnvironment has a long history when it comes to examining EPA’s Brownfields Program. Last year, the committee held a hearing identifying issues with the Brownfields Program, many of which were addressed in the discussion draft the committee considered today.
Witnesses prepare to testify ahead of today’s #SubEnvironment hearing
Meade Anderson, Brownfields Program Manager at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, testifying on behalf of the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials, stated, “Brownfield redevelopment plays an important role in addressing our country’s ailing infrastructure, spurring economic development while cleaning up environmentally challenged properties. Redevelopment of brownfields reuses existing roads, bridges, water treatment plants and other infrastructure elements resulting in savings in development costs and the need to build new infrastructure that also requires maintenance.”
Robert Martineau Jr., Commissioner at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, testifying on behalf of the Environmental Council of States, echoed Mr. Anderson’s thoughts and threw his weight behind the discussion draft, commenting, “Across our nation, Brownfields programs play an integral role in the redevelopment of infrastructure that has fallen out of use. Brownfields grants facilitate economic growth and encourage meaningful investment in communities. Brownfield redevelopment is, at its heart, economic and community development with improved environmental outcomes. Legislative approaches like those embedded in the Discussion Draft will make this already successful program even more so. I commend you for taking up this topic and for your thoughtful Discussion Draft.”
The Honorable Parris N. Glendening, President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute, discussed his support for the draft bill, stating, “Historically, the EPA Brownfields program has been a lifeline for communities that are struggling to overcome blight and contamination at abandoned industrial sites. … This discussion draft, if enacted into law, stands to benefit hundreds of communities – big and small, urban and rural – across the nation looking to transform their vacant properties to create new engines of economic growth.”
Chairman Walden delivers his opening statement
“My home state of Oregon has a very active Brownfields Program and we’ve seen some great recent success in my district in particular,” said full committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR). “We remain committed to working with our colleagues across the aisle and on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to ensure that the Brownfields Program will encourage EPA, states, and local governments to work together to redevelop brownfields properties and create new jobs, leverage private investment, and provide for economic development.”
Chairman Shimkus listens to witnesses deliver their tesitmony
#SubEnvironment Chairman Shimkus concluded, “The Discussion Draft contains improvements to the Brownfields Program such as the creation of multipurpose grants that can be used for brownfields assessment and cleanup, and which will provide flexibility to communities trying to cleanup multiple brownfields sites within an area in the community. The EPA Brownfields Program is vital to states and local communities as they try to address contaminated industrial and commercial properties and return them to productive use. I stand ready to roll up my sleeves and continue to work to reauthorize and improve EPA’s Brownfields Program.”
A background memo, witness testimony, and an archived webcast of the hearing can be found online HERE.