Markey, Inhofe lead Bipartisan Group of Senators in Introducing Brownfields Reauthorization

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), ranking member on the Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight Subcommittee for EPW, led a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing S. 1479,  the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act of 2015 (BUILD Act).  Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), ranking member of the EPW Committee; Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), chairman of the Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight Subcommittee, Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Mike Crapo (R-Id.) are original cosponsors of the BUILD Act.

 

The Brownfields program, which is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and enjoys strong bipartisan support, provides grants and technical assistance to states, local governments, tribes, and redevelopment agencies to support the assessment, cleanup, and reuse of Brownfield sites.  Among other things, the BUILD Act would provide funding for technical assistance grants to small communities and rural areas, expand the scope of eligible grant recipients to include non-profit community groups, and authorize funding for multi-purpose grants to tackle more complex sites.

 

“When I became Chairman of the EPW committee, reauthorizing the Brownfields program emerged as a key priority for our committee.  I am proud to work together with my good friend, Senator Markey, and other members of the EPW committee to improve the Brownfields program,” said Inhofe. "While Senator Markey and I may not see eye-to-eye on every environmental issue, the Brownfields program is where we have found common ground to achieve real results in cleaning up contaminated sites while also promoting economic development across our states and in our local communities. The BUILD Act will make several overdue improvements to the Brownfields program that expired in 2006. Our bill directs EPA to provide technical assistance grants to small communities, Indian tribes, rural areas, and disadvantaged areas, and provides greater certainty for long-term cleanups of more complex projects.  I proudly stand with my colleagues in making a good EPA program even better, and I look forward to moving this legislation through the committee in the coming year."  

 

"Senator Inhofe and I might not agree on all green jobs creation, but we’re both committed to improving Brownfields utilization, and the BUILD Act is critical to cleaning up the decades of abuse our lands have experienced at the hands of corporate polluters,” said Markey. "Cleaning up Brownfield sites is a win-win for Massachusetts and the country, helping to create jobs and spur economic activity while revitalizing underutilized and polluted lands. I look forward to working with Senator Inhofe and my colleagues to ensure that these Brownfield sites will no longer be part of the problem, but will be part of our economic solution.” 

 

The BUILD Act is critical to ensuring that communities near contaminated sites will be cleaned up and revitalized,” said Sen. Boxer. “I look forward to working with my colleagues as we move forward with this bipartisan legislation in the Senate."

 

“A number of South Dakota communities have benefited from the Brownfields program,” said Rounds. “Reauthorization of the program will allow us to continue to clean up polluted areas so they are once again safe for use.”

 

“As a mayor, I saw firsthand how the EPA’s Brownfields program could benefit and help revitalize communities like Newark.” Sen. Booker said. “I am proud to join this effort to expand the eligibility and scope of the Brownfields program to support cleanup and development efforts in more communities across New Jersey and the country. This bipartisan legislation is critical to restoring the estimated 450,000 brownfield sites nationwide to productive uses and will contribute greatly to our nation’s public and economic health.”

 

“With the important assistance provided though the Brownfields program, many communities throughout Idaho have successfully been able to revitalize underutilized and contaminated sites, enabling redevelopment for businesses, parks and residential areas,” said Crapo.  “This legislation improves the already successful program by increasing access for rural and small communities and providing much-needed certainty for long-term projects.”

 

Highlights of the BUILD Act:

  • Authorizes up to $7,500 in technical assistance grants to eligible entities in small communities, Indian tribes, rural areas, and disadvantaged areas. 
  • Expands the eligibility for Brownfields grants for nonprofit organizations to include certain nonprofit organizations, limited liability corporations, limited partnerships, and community development entities.
  • Increases the funding limit for remediation grants to $500,000 for each site, with some exceptions for higher funding, and authorizes multi-purpose grants up to $950,000, which provide greater certainty for long-term project financing.  
  • Allows certain government entities that do not qualify as a bona fide prospective purchaser to be eligible to receive grants so long as the government entity did not cause or contribute to a release or threatened release of a hazardous substance at the property.
  • Allows eligible entities to use up to 8 percent of their Brownfields grant funding for administrative costs.
  • Directs EPA in providing grants to give consideration to brownfield sites located adjacent to federally designated floodplains.
  • Requires EPA to establish a program to provide grants of up to $500,000 to eligible entities and to capitalize a revolving loan fund to locate clean energy projects at Brownfields sites.
  • Reauthorizes the Brownfield program at the same authorized funding level ($250 million per year) through fiscal year 2018.

 

Background

 

A similar version of the BUILD Act (S. 491) was introduced by Sens. Lautenberg, Inhofe, Crapo and Udall in March 2013.  The EPW Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health held a hearing on the Brownfields program in July 2013, and the full committee reported an amended version by voice vote on April 3, 2014.  The BUILD Act introduced today reflects the amended version adopted by the EPW Committee in the 113th Congress.

 

On Jan. 11, 2002, the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act (PL 107-118) was enacted by President George W. Bush.  The underlying bill (H.R. 2869) passed the House under suspension of the rules and the Senate under unanimous consent on Dec. 20, 2001.  Authorization for the Brownfields program expired in 2006. 

 

For fiscal year 2015, Congress appropriated $189 million to EPA for the Brownfields program.

 

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