April news from the National Brownfields Coalition

As Congress considers the federal budget for fiscal year 2013, the National Brownfields Coalition is working to support several brownfields-related federal programs. These programs include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Brownfields program, as well as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Section 108 loan guarantee authority, its Sustainable Communities program, and the Brownfields Economic Development Initiative (BEDI) program.

In support of these federal programs, 25 organizations have endorsed the Brownfields Coalition’s letters to Congress, downloadable below. The letters call for $250 million for EPA’s Brownfields Program; $7 million for HUD 108; $100 million for the HUD Sustainable Communities Program; and $25 million for the HUD BEDI Program.

The Coalition also worked with the offices of Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CN) – who were joined by 13 additional Senators – to ask Senate Appropriations Committee members to maintain funding for the EPA Brownfields Program.

These efforts are gaining momentum. Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to restore funding to HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative, and proposed a budget of $50 million for the program. The Senate’s vote is a huge step forward for this effort; the draft budget has now been passed to the House of Representatives for review.

Click here to read full copies of the National Brownfields Coalition’s letters to Congress.

The Coalition is financially supported by the Brownfields Leadership Circle, which is open for new members.

The federal budget for FY 2013 is now under consideration by the House of Representatives, and the Coalition urges groups to communicate with their Representative as soon as possible – particularly if he or she sits on the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Interior and Environment or Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. Aside from writing letters of support (using the Coalition’s letters as a template), a recommended alternative approach is to simply assemble information about your brownfields projects and send it to your Representative to make sure they are aware of the benefits of brownfields investments. See our project compendiums for California and Tennessee as examples. The members of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommitee are listed here.

In addition to its Appropriations advocacy, the National Brownfields Coalition also urged support for renewal of the Section 198 Remediation Tax Expensing Program, a provision in the tax code which makes some remediation expenditures tax deductible. In support of this effort, the Coalition sent letters to the House Ways and Means Committee (PDF) and the Senate Finance Committee (PDF). The Tax Expensing Program expired at the end of 2011, but will still be applicable to the 2012 tax year if Congress renews the program before the end of the year. The Coalition also asked Congress to consider three changes: making the program permanent; eliminating the recapture provision; and establishing a five-year carry-forward (to allow the deduction to be taken within five years of when the remediation expenditures were incurred).

Suffolk County, New York is using its recently adopted Land Bank Authority law to boost the County’s capacity to clean up and redevelop brownfields. The County reports “there are 83 brownfield sites comprised of 76.8 acres, representing more than $20 million in uncollected tax revenue, that would qualify for remediation under the new entity.” The State’s Land Bank Authority law, adopted last summer, encourages developers to purchase properties by allowing them to be sold at a price lower than the outstanding tax lien. Read more >>

The Chesapeake Commerce Center, a former General Motors plant in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Center for Automotive Research issued a report on Re-Purposing Former Automotive Manufacturing Plants (PDF), (December, 2011). The report reviews the re-use status of 267 closed manufacturing plants and analyzes seven case studies in depth. One of the case studies, the Duke Realty redevelopment of the former GM Plant in Baltimore, is a model for EPA-state cooperation on cleanup issues. Typical of many closed manufacturing plants, the cleanup involved EPA Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) oversight. A key time-saving piece was that EPA and Maryland’s Department of the Environment (MDE) formed “an intergovernmental team that met intensively during the early stages of the revitalization process, and also worked closely with Duke.” Hull and Associates, one of the National Brownfields Coalition’s private sector partners, managed the cleanup and the EPA/MDE collaboration.

The project data base of closed and re-purposed auto manufacturing plants is posted here. The data indicate that while 128 of the 267 closed plants have been repurposed, 139 remain closed.

The Michigan Collaborative Stakeholder Initiative, working with the Department of Environmental Quality and the Michigan State University Extension, produced a report, Reinventing the State’s Cleanup and Redevelopment Programs. This Barnes and Thornberg summaryoffers highlights:

  • Brownfields Redevelopment: address reauthorization of financial incentives and related municipal environmental liability reforms;
  • Due Care Plans (“continuing obligations”): expedited review and approval (possibly within 45 days) for real estate lending and other transactions;
  • Remedial Action Plans (RAPs): decentralized review and approval at MDEQ District Offices (with elimination of Lansing Quality Review Ream (QRT) centralized review);
  • No Further Action (NFA): allow NFA determinations for partial sites;
  • Leaking Underground Storage Tanks: coordination of free-product/source removal recommendations with pending Part 213 legislative amendments;
  • GSI Criteria: coordinate with the Water Resources Division of MDEQ and reforms through pending legislative amendments;
  • Vapor Intrusion (VI): issue exposure pathway and clean-up criteria guidance and make determination on the applicability of OSHA permissible exposure limits at non-residential facilities; and
  • Part 201 Rules: elimination of many administrative rules in deference to detailed statutory provisions, consistent with ORR recommendations, and including mandated updates of clean-up criteria.

It is expected that many of the CSI group recommendations will be adopted, enacted or otherwise pursued yet this year, and perhaps as soon as the next 60-90 days. There is also a current statutory requirement that the Part 201 clean-up criteria administrative rules be updated before the end of this year.

There is a real sense from the stakeholders involved in the CSI that MDEQ is committed to meaningful reinvention of the environmental clean-up and Brownfield redevelopment program and that the momentum from this CSI process will carry forward. Obviously, time will tell which of these recommendations are in fact implemented and on what schedule.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Conferences and Webcasts:

Newsletter prepared by Evans Paull, Executive Director, National Brownfields Coalition, 202-329-4282 or [email protected].