Protecting the Federal Brownfields Program in Uncertain Times

 

The following blog post is based on a Webinar entitled Protecting the Federal Brownfields Program in Uncertain Times, brought to you by the Center for Creative Land Recycling (CCLR) and the National Association of Local Government Environmental Professionals (NALGEP). The webinar was sponsored by Brownfield Listings, the premier online marketplace and project platform to list real estate to be remediated, redeveloped, revitalized, or reimagined.

There has always been strong bipartisan support for brownfields law and funding. The EPA program produces economic results- leverages 8,000 jobs and $1.5 billion dollars in redevelopment funding per year, and it increases local tax revenues up to $97 million annually. The program produces environmental results- has assessed 26,405 properties, cleaned up 1,505 properties, and made ready for reuse 5,693 properties, to date. Every EPA dollar leverages $18 in revitalization investment.

Under the current Administration’s regulatory environment, brownfields programs face a growing threat. However, there is growing bipartisan support for reauthorization. The President is focused on jobs, tax reform, economic development, and infrastructure. Infrastructure and tax reform legislation in particular present new opportunities for brownfields despite the hostile climate precipitated by the current administration. Pruitt has also expressed support for brownfields.  However, under the President’s current budget, the following programs have been slated for elimination: the HUD CDBG (Community Development Block Grant Program), the EDA (Economic Development Administration), funding for regional economic commissions (e.g., Appalachia Regional Commission), the USDA Rural Water and Sewer Infrastructure program, and EPA Brownfields funds are cut by 13%.

Congress holds the purse strings so the “skinny” budget proposed by the President in March, will come under scrutiny when Appropriations Subcommittees accept funding requests from Members of Congress in April. The President is to propose a detailed budget in early May, Appropriations Subcommittees will consider legislation in May, June, and July, and final legislation will come in the fall.

EPA Brownfields funding supports planning, assessments, cleanup, job training, technical assistance, and state programs. The administration is looking to cut EPA Brownfields funding by 13%, and brownfield grants would be cut from $80 million to $75 million. Grants to the states would be cut by 30% from $47.5 million to $33.4 million. The President’s budget eliminates HUD CDBG funding, and these block grants are flexible funds that have supported the redevelopment of thousands of brownfields across the country. The program has been funded at around $3 billion in recent years, but the Trump administration has proposed eliminating the program because it “is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results.” Eliminated CDBG funds are instead earmarked to provide funding to build the southern border wall.

EDA Public Works and Infrastructure funding has supported hundreds of brownfield projects and the EDA Manufacturing Communities Partnership has linked brownfields cleanup with the revitalization of manufacturing. The EDA has supported many small and rural communities and has been funded at $250 million in recent years. The President has proposed the elimination of the EDA. The President’s budget also eliminates funding for regional economic development commissions that support local regional economic development, which includes brownfields. This includes the elimination of the Appalachia Regional Commission, the Delta Regional Authority, the Denali Commission, and the Northern Border Regional Commission. The USDA provides economic development and infrastructure funding to support small and rural communities and USDA funds have supported hundreds of brownfield redevelopment projects in small rural communities. The President’s budget eliminates USDA grants and loans for water and sewer infrastructure on brownfields.

The CCLR/NALGEP recommended funding levels include keeping EPA Brownfields at $250 million (authorized level), keeping the HUD CDBG funded to at least $3.3 billion (current level), keeping the EDA funded to at least $250 million (current level), and keeping the USDA Rural Development programs funded to at least $2.8 billion (current level).  The CCLR/NALGEP urges you to send letters to Members of Congress to request the Appropriations Subcommittees to include funding levels for brownfields and to follow up with congressional offices to make sure they support your requests. Letters are provided from the CCLR/NALGEP for this purpose.

Contact McAlister GeoScience and the CCLR/NALGEP for more information and if you are interested in getting involved with the development, redevelopment, or some other form of role with Brownfields, please contact us to get started.

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