Washington, DC - Legislation to reauthorize the federal brownfields remediation program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed the House on Thursday. The bill builds on the key components of Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty’s bipartisan brownfields proposal introduced earlier in the year.
“Today’s passage is an important step to ensure that our communities have every tool available to renew blighted properties and create good-paying jobs,” Esty said. “Central and northwestern Connecticut has a long and proud industrial history, but that history has left an unwelcome legacy of brownfield sites throughout our region – from Meriden to Waterbury up to Plymouth and Torrington.
“Growing our economy and protecting our environment are not mutually-exclusive goals. They go hand-in-hand: every acre of brownfields redevelopment creates close to 10 jobs. This is an incredible opportunity to advance legislation demonstrating our universal commitment to creating jobs and strengthening the communities we are proud to represent.”
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. The program was allowed to expire in 2006, though it has continued to receive funding.
“On behalf of the citizen and taxpayers of Waterbury, I wish to thank Congresswoman Esty for her continuing efforts to turn brownfields into productive parcels of land,” Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary said. “The passage of this bill cannot be underestimated in the furtherance of providing clean, safe communities in which to work and live. Returning these properties to the tax rolls while providing growth opportunities in some of our most challenged economically challenged communities is vital to the financial health of cities such as Waterbury.”
“Congresswoman Esty’s commitment to preserving EPA brownfield remediation program is greatly appreciated,” Torrington Mayor Elinor Carbone said. “Torrington is home to a number of contaminated, deteriorating buildings that pose tremendous health and safety risks for our community. Aside from the obvious environmental impact our former industrial past has left us, these buildings devalue the properties and have a negative effect on the character of our neighborhoods. Torrington’s focus on brownfield redevelopment has been the cornerstone of recapturing our Naugatuck Riverfront and sets the stage for reuse and redevelopment of our under-utilized former manufacturing sites. Access to funding from EPA is critical to the continuation of our efforts and this legislation is the much-needed boost in providing the resources we need.”
"Assistance in brownfields remediation has been integral in the redevelopment of our city,” Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati said. The passage of this legislation will allow for continued growth in Meriden by providing an additional avenue of funding to help with our ongoing economic growth. We are greatly appreciative of the Congresswoman's efforts."
The Brownfields Reauthorization Act would reauthorize the EPA Brownfields program for the next five years at a rate of $200 million per year. It would also increase the cleanup grant amount from $200,000 to $500,000.
“Brownfields represent significant economic development opportunities and challenges in communities throughout Connecticut, and the improvements to the EPA’s programs made in this bill represent a significant step forward in advancing more of these long-languishing sites toward redevelopment and reuse,” said Tim Sullivan, Deputy Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. “I want to thank Congresswoman Esty for her leadership in advocating more for more and better federal support for brownfield redevelopment.”
Connecticut’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) identified 1,376 pages of potential brownfields sites across the state. 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.