Introduction to Brownfields
Many sites across the country that were once used for industrial and commercial purposes have been abandoned. Municipalities, lenders, investors, developers, and other potential stakeholders are afraid that involvement with these sites may result in environmental liability for any contamination that may be present at the sites. Oftentimes, the belief that a given site may be contaminated is merely based upon site history and other forms of qualitative, inconclusive information.
However, even the potential of legal and economic liability for contamination at these sites is significant enough to hinder further consideration of these sites for reuse or redevelopment. Therefore, potential stakeholders are more attracted to sites in pristine areas, called "greenfields." Development of these sites contributes to urban sprawl and the environmental degradation that often follows.
The continued neglect of abandoned sites can result in blighted areas, rife with dilapidated industrial and commercial facilities that threaten the environment, create safety and health risks for residents, drive unemployment up, and foster a sense of hopelessness. These areas are called "brownfields."
Public Law 107-118 (H.R. 2869) - "Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act" (i.e., Brownfields Law) defines a "Brownfield Site" to mean:
"...real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant."
Brownfield sites include all "real property," including residential, as well as commercial and industrial properties. It is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land, and both improves and protects the environment.
EPA's Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative is designed to empower states, communities, and other stakeholders in economic redevelopment to work together in a timely manner to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields. One tool EPA utilizes to empower stakeholders is its Brownfields cooperative agreements.
Brownfields cooperative agreements serve as the foundation of EPA's Brownfields Program and support revitalization efforts by funding environmental assessment, cleanup, and job training activities. Brownfields Assessment Grants provide funding for brownfield inventories, planning, environmental assessments, and community outreach. Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund Grants provide funding to capitalize loans that are used to clean up brownfields. Brownfields Job Training Grants provide environmental training for residents of brownfields communities. Brownfields Cleanup Grants provide direct funding for cleanup activities at certain properties, which may include planned green-space, recreational, or other nonprofit uses.
EPA's investment in the Brownfields Program has resulted in many accomplishments, including leveraging more than $6.5 billion in brownfields cleanup and redevelopment funding from the private and public sectors and creating approximately 25,000 new jobs. The momentum generated by the Program is leaving an enduring legacy.
For additional information on EPA's Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative and other related information, look through the rest of this site, contact one of the Region 7 Brownfields Contacts, or visit the EPA National Brownfields Homepage.