New legislation makes it easier to clean up brownfield sites in Washington state

Esplanade Park in Tacoma, WA
Esplanade Park in Tacoma, WA, is a former brownfield site that was cleaned up and redeveloped. Newly passed legislation will help more sites achieve this success. Photo by the Washington State Department of Ecology via Flickr.

In June 2013, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill that will make it easier for communities to clean up brownfield sites across the state.

SB 5296 modifies Washington’s Model Toxics Control Act and creates new tools for brownfields cleanup. “There are a large number of toxic waste sites that have been identified in the department of ecology’s priority list,” the bill explained. “Addressing the cleanup of these toxic waste sites will provide needed jobs to citizens of Washington state.”


Indianapolis makes new commitment to brownfields redevelopment thanks to insurance recovery

Major Tool and Machinery
Major Tool and Machine expanded its Indianapolis factory onto the former site of Ertel Manufacturing, once a brownfield. The site was remediated through a combination of grants, tax increment financing and federal programs. Photo via Facebook.

When Ertel Manufacturing closed down in 2002, it left behind land contaminated with half a dozen different toxic substances. After spending millions of dollars to clean up and remediate the site, the City of Indianapolis has won legal victory over the company that insured Ertel Manufacturing—and the City is putting that money back into remediation efforts.

The City of Indianapolis recently won a $6 million insurance settlement over the Ertel Manufacturing site, which was abandoned after the company filed for bankruptcy in 2002. The victory is one of “insurance recovery” (or “insurance archeology”), where insurers are held liable for the cleanup costs of polluting businesses that held comprehensive general liability (CGL) policies. It is most often used in instances where the business is now bankrupt or is not financially viable and the CGL policies were written between 1945 and 1985.


National Brownfields Coalition seeks members for Remediation Tax Expensing committee

Medpace moved their 700-employee headquarters to Cincinnati and used the tax expensing program to overcome $3.0 million in cleanup costs. Photo via

Brownfields professionals and coalition members are invited to join a new committee of the National Brownfields Coalition dedicated to re-implementing the Section 198 Remediation Tax Expensing program.

The Committee is organizing support from communities that have benefited from the program, and is providing information to Congress on the past impacts and the future potential of the program. The Committee has already organized a sign-on letter in support of the measure and hosted a webcast about the issue with our partner NALGEP. The webcast includes many project examples, including the Medpace office and research laboratory pictured above, which was built on a 29-acre parcel in Cincinnati that was once contaminated. Medpace has 750 employees at the site with plans for future expansion.


Join Smart Growth America for two events during the National Brownfields Conference

Brownfields conference banner

The National Brownfields Conference is the largest event in the country that focuses on environmental revitalization and economic redevelopment of contaminated land. This year’s conference will be held May 15-17, 2013 in Atlanta, GA, and Smart Growth America is hosting two events for conference participants.


Details of the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act

The Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act of 2013, introduced today by Senators Lautenberg, Inhofe, Udall and Crapo, would improve the way the federal government supports brownfields redevelopment in the United States. Here’s how.

The Act reauthorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields Program, and improves the program’s ability to support local economic development. If passed, the bill would modernize and improve key elements of the program, and would provide additional tools and resources to communities working to redevelop brownfields. It makes a number of improvements recommended by the National Brownfields Coalition, which is comprised of a broad set of stakeholders, including local governments, developers, and community redevelopment organizations.


June news from the National Brownfields Coalition

With the Republican Convention just over two months away, where does the party’s presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, stand on brownfield issues? His time as Governor of Massachusetts provides some insights. The following is one of the ten Sustainable Development Principles outlined in Smart Growth Resources for Cities, and Towns written by Massachusetts’ Office of Commonwealth Development in 2006:

“REDEVELOP FIRST. Support the revitalization of community centers and neighborhoods. Encourage reuse and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure rather than the construction of new infrastructure in undeveloped areas. Give preference to redevelopment of brownfields, preservation and reuse of historic structures and rehabilitation of existing housing and schools.”

Announced at an October, 2003 Pittsfield, Massachusetts event, Mitt Romney’s economic development plan included “Doubling the Economic Opportunity Tax Credit from 5 to 10 percent for the redevelopment of a brownfields site.” Romney cited job creation and the potential to entice new companies to existing development as reasons to increase the credit. Read more >>

Is this kind of information useful to your business? If yes, join the Brownfields Coalition Leadership Circle.


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.


National Brownfields Coalition ramps up outreach to Congress during 2013 Appropriations process

Cumberland Park on Nashville, TN’s waterfront, transformed a former industrial area into a 6.5 acre nature-inspired play space that gets kids and parents moving. It is an excellent example of brownfield redevelopment in action. Photo via

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.


Brownfields and the President’s budget

The President’s budget for fiscal year 2013, released in February, requests $167 million for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields program – a $1.1 million (or 0.7%) cut relative to 2012. The Administration continues “zeroing” the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program, although it also asks for an increase in HUD 108 loan authority to $500 million. The Administration wants to make HUD 108 self-sustaining through increased fees, thereby eliminating the credit subsidy. The HUD Sustainable Communities Program, which Congress did not fund last year, is back in the President’s budget at $100 million.


National Brownfields Coalition successfully advocates for federal brownfields program in FY 2012

For small towns, cleaning up a contaminated brownfield can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Rehabilitating former industrial sites, abandoned gas stations or other polluted land can be complicated and expensive – but transforming this land can have enormous benefits to both the environment and the economy. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Brownfields Program helps communities of all sizes achieve these goals.

As Congress debated the federal budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012, Smart Growth America’s National Brownfields Coalition ramped up a national campaign to support the EPA Brownfields Program in the FY 2012 appropriations process. Faced with $40 million in proposed cuts from the House of Representatives, the Coalition reached deep into its membership to generate support for this important federal program. The Coalition asked mayors and economic development directors across the country to contact their Members of Congress and successfully reached nearly three-quarters of the members of the Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittees.

The result of these efforts was that $35 million of those proposed cuts were restored. Among the many efforts involved in achieving this goal, dozens of towns, elected officials, non-profits, companies and other organizations sent letters to their members of Congress supporting the EPA Brownfields Program in FY 2012 appropriations.