Esty, Katko Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Preserve Brownfields Program at EPA
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Reps. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and John Katko (R-NY) today introduced bipartisan legislation to help communities revitalize neighborhoods and spur economic development through brownfields assessment and remediation. Both Esty and Katko serve on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, of which Esty is the Vice Ranking Member.
The Brownfields Reauthorization Act of 2017 would reauthorize and improve the Brownfields program at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Reps. Pete DeFazio (D-OR), Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Grace Napolitano (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, are also original cosponsors of the legislation.
“Passing this bipartisan bill will empower our communities to turn blighted properties into livable, workable spaces that create good-paying jobs, boost local economies, and provide new opportunities for outdoor recreation,” Rep. Elizabeth Esty said. “Cities and towns throughout central and northwest Connecticut have Brownfields sites in need of redevelopment – from Waterbury to New Milford to Torrington to Meriden. On average, every dollar of federal funding awarded through the Brownfields program leverages $18 in other public and private financing. Transforming these abandoned spaces into economic assets is truly one of the best investments we can make.”
“With Onondaga Lake in our backyard, Central New Yorkers know all too well the impact of industrial pollution. Our local and state leaders have done tremendous work in our community to clean up Onondaga Lake and to restore and revitalize the surrounding neighborhoods through environmental remediation and economic development. Towns across my district, including Auburn, Wolcott, Fulton, Oswego, Syracuse, and others have benefited from the brownfields program,” Rep. John Katko said. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation today with Rep. Esty to preserve and enhance the EPA Brownfields Program so that Central New York and communities nationwide can continue to restore and develop Brownfields sites.”
Brownfields are segments of land that were once used for industrial purposes or commercial use. Many times, this land becomes contaminated with hazardous waste or pollution, and requires environmental remediation. Originally authorized in 2002, the EPA’s Brownfield Program empowers states, communities, and stakeholders to assess, clean up, and redevelop these sites. However, the program was allowed to expire in 2006, though it has continued to receive nominal funding.
The Brownfields Reauthorization Act would reauthorize the EPA Brownfields program through Fiscal Year 2022, at a rate of $250 million per year. It would also increase the cleanup grant amount from $200,000 to $600,000, as well as expand eligibility requirements to certain nonprofits, limited liability corporations, limited partnerships, and community development entities.
“Once again, Congresswoman Esty is demonstrating her commitment to the citizens of Waterbury and the region by re-introducing this bill. While proud of our industrial past, every remediated brownfield provides another opportunity for economic development, bringing good jobs to Waterbury and growing our Grand List,” Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary said.
"The City of Meriden has worked in close partnership with the EPA, as well other state and federal agencies, for more than 15 years to complete community wide environmental assessments and cleanup activities in our community. To date, 35 properties of concern have been identified and 10 sites have been fully or partially remediated. The sites of concern are often located within our residential neighborhoods potentially exposing residents to contamination while at the same time inhibiting economic development,” Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati said. “Federal funding provided by the EPA and other agencies has been key to helping us achieve our goal to transform these brownfield sites and make them a vital part of a vibrant, Transit Oriented Development (TOD) District that includes a new downtown park, retail, and mixed income housing. Today, over $100 million is being invested in our downtown. This investment is a direct result of our persistent efforts to reclaim and remediate brownfield sites with assistance provided by the EPA and other partners. We commend Congresswoman Esty's efforts to support the continuation and expansion of the EPA brownfield program."
“Brownfields represent challenges and opportunities in nearly every community in Connecticut, and Congresswoman Esty’s bill would make it easier for these longstanding eyesores to be cleaned up and returned to productive reuse,” Tim Sullivan, the Deputy Commissioner at the State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, said. “Successful brownfield redevelopment requires a strong partnership between the private sector and every level of government – municipal, state and federal – and a strengthened federal brownfields program will enable significant investment and job creation throughout Connecticut.”
The Brownfields Reauthorization Act of 2017 would also benefit Area-Wide Revitalization Planning Grants, which are commonly used by communities when creating long-term remediation plans for brownfield sites. These grants assist communities assess a site and the state of its infrastructure, determine the level of investment needed, and identify private and public resources available at the local and federal level while keeping current and future markets in mind. Planning Grants oftentimes expedite the time frame between the assessment and cleanup of a brownfield site.
It is estimated that there are over 450,000 brownfield sites across the country, with at least one brownfield site in every congressional district. Of these sites, 59,000 areas have been remediated and revitalized. According to an EPA study, there are 66 brownfield properties throughout central and northwestern Connecticut.
According to a 2007 study, every acre of brownfields redevelopment creates approximately ten jobs. Additionally, on average, for every $1 dollar spent through the EPA’s Brownfields program leverages an average of $18 in outside investment.
This bill will be referred to both the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.