Brownfields are tracts of land that have been developed for industrial or commercial purposes, polluted, and then abandoned or underused. Expansion or redevelopment on such land is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. Redeveloping brownfields benefits communities by creating jobs, encouraging private investment, and expanding local economies.
The Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfield Initiative
The Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfield Economic Redevelopment Initiative seeks to protect public health and the environment by assisting communities in assessing, cleaning up, and redeveloping brownfields. This initiative benefits communities by creating jobs, encouraging private investment, and expanding local economies.
In January 2002, President Bush signed the "Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act"—bipartisan legislation to help promote the clean-up and redevelopment of brownfields. His fiscal year 2003 budget also doubled the funds available through the EPA in FY02—from $98 million to $200 million—to help states and communities clean up and revitalize brownfield sites.
Key provisions include increased funding for site assessment and cleanup, increased funding flexibility, and the ability for EPA to provide direct grants for brownfields clean-up. The program also provides funding for petroleum-contaminated sites, and eases the requirements of EPA's revolving loan fund. Funding can also be used for environmental insurance premiums.
How Do Brownfield Redevelopment Initiatives Benefit Appalachian Communities?
- More funding is available and more flexibility exists (in terms of direct grants and relief of burdensome requirements) for rural communities. Previously, rural communities only had access to EPA funding for assessment and cleanup of brownfields through Revolving Loan Funds (RLFs), which are complicated to manage.
- Recognition that rural communities require different approaches and a variety of models to make brownfield redevelopment possible. Rural areas will also receive more technical assistance and other informational materials from the EPA and its regional offices.
- Rural communities are now at the forefront for assessment and clean-up funds, particularly with the availability of direct grants. Over the past few years, most of the money spent by EPA for assessment and clean up of brownfields (delivered through the RLFs) has gone to urban and medium-sized areas.
Obstacles to Brownfield Redevelopment in Rural Appalachian Communities
- Unused open space is often more readily available and cheaper to develop than reclaiming a brownfield site.
- Recruiting an experienced brownfield redevelopment manager is difficult.
- Liability concerns are compounded by insufficient information to establish responsibility for contamination.
- Cleaning up a brownfield site can be expensive.
- There is no formal venue for exchanging information and providing guidance about brownfield redevelopment among rural communities.
(Source: Reclaiming Rural America's Brownfields, National Association of Development Organizations.)
With help from ARC and EPA, rural communities can more easily overcome these obstacles.
Organizations Specializing in Brownfields Redevelopment
EPA's Web Pages on Brownfield Redevelopment
News, grant information, and explanations of brownfields development.
The Brownfields Center
A joint venture of Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Pittsburgh, the center applies an interdisciplinary approach to researching brownfield redevelopment.
The Brownfields and Land Revitalization Technology Support Center
Tracks the most current technologies available for brownfield site investigation and cleanup. The center is coordinated through EPA's Technology Innovation Office.
EPA's Technology Innovation Program (TIP)
TIP advocates more effective, less costly approaches to assess and clean up contaminated waste sites, soil, and groundwater. TIP's focus includes brownfield sites, as well as Superfund sites, corrective action sites under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, underground storage tank clean-ups, and state voluntary clean-up programs.
The national Phoenix Awards for Excellence in Brownfield Redevelopment are awarded annually to individuals and groups working to transform abandoned industrial areas so they can be put to to productive new uses. The 2008 Phoenix Awards were presented in Detroit, Michigan. The award winners remediated and redeveloped more than 1,350 acres of land, which is now used for medical research and medical centers, large mixed use communities, a fueling station, revitalized manufacturing plants, retail and commercial centers, green buildings, restored waterfronts, and trails for tourist destinations.