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Brownfields Bill BUILDs a Path to Neighborhood Revitalization

March 7th, 2013 by

Outdoor space at Harrison Commons, built on a remediated brownfield site. Photo: Jay Watson

Outdoor space at Harrison Commons, built on a remediated brownfield site. Photo: Jay Watson

U.S. Sens. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Inhofe (R-OK), Crapo (R-ID) and Udall (D-NM) introduced legislation today that could help New Jersey towns and cities put contaminated land, commonly referred to as “brownfields,” back  in to economic use. 

The Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act of 2013 reauthorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s brownfields program and makes several improvements to how the program functions.

“If you’ve ever been to Harrison Commons, you’ve experienced what brownfields redevelopment can do,” said Peter Kasabach, executive director of New Jersey Future. “This bill has the potential to help other areas of the state with brownfields sites move more quickly to revitalization. We thank Senator Lautenberg and his colleagues for their leadership on this important issue.”

New Jersey has approximately 10,000 brownfield sites, and estimates are that more than 450,000 sites in the United States are contaminated and abandoned. Nearly every community in the country has at least one such site. At a national average of 6.5 acres each, that’s 4,570 square miles of contaminated land across the country that could be helped by the BUILD Act.

According to the Brownfields Coalition of the Northeast, New Jersey has been aggressive in brownfield cleanup and redevelopment as a sustainable development tool, providing grants, loans and other incentives for brownfields redevelopment that communities have combined with federal incentives.  The BUILD Act’s timing is opportune for New Jersey, says Brownfields Coalition of the Northeast executive director Sue Boyle, because the state’s incentives are currently over-subscribed.

“Every county in New Jersey boasts successful brownfield redevelopments that have resulted in new uses, ranging from the minor league ball parks in Trenton, Camden or Newark to shopping malls to new residential development, public facilities and park land,” said Boyle. “Those are just some examples of the many brownfield sites across New Jersey that have been successfully cleaned up and rebuilt.”

The BUILD Act would make restoration efforts more flexible and easier by expanding non-profit eligibility to receive brownfields grants and making the process simpler for smaller towns and cities. It also raises the limit for site remediation grants from $200,000 to $500,000 per site. In addition, the new multi-purpose grant authority adds flexibility to allow communities to respond to the highest priority sites with appropriate site assessment and/or cleanup assistance.

To learn more about this bill and the organizations supporting it, please visit the website of the National Brownfields Coalition, which comprises national, state and local organizations including the Brownfields Coalition of the Northeast, that support federal policies that will accelerate cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated and abandoned land. The coalition, part of Smart Growth America, represents diverse economic, community, environmental, and development interests focused on promoting brownfields redevelopment as a core strategy for achieving job growth, community revitalization, and sustainable growth objectives. 

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