Congressional testimony on brownfields highlights economic opportunities of redevelopment

Geoff Anderson

Smart Growth America President and CEO Geoff Anderson testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week at a hearing titled “Cleaning Up and Restoring Communities for Economic Revitalization.” Joining him were Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator at the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Honorable Debbie O’Malley, Bernalillo County Commissioner from New Mexico, and Dr. Kendra Kenyon, President of the Idaho Council of Governments.

Anderson began by thanking Committee members Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) for introducing the BUILD Act, a key piece of legislation to help local communities turn old contaminated or wasted land into productive places once again. Senators Udall and Crapo introduced the bill in March along with Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

“The private sector is now more ready than ever to put capital behind cleanup and redevelopment. It makes economic and fiscal sense.”

Anderson’s testimony focused on three points about brownfields redevelopment: 1.) Market demand has created favorable conditions for brownfields redevelopment in existing communities; 2.) Brownfields redevelopment makes economic and fiscal sense because it helps communities leverage private sector investment and improves local govemments’ budgets; and 3.) In order to realize these benefits, the government will need help from the private sector.

Anderson explained that “blighted properties are bad taxpayers themselves” and reduce property values in the surrounding area. By contrast, redeveloped sites can increase property values in a 3/4 mile radius by 5-15%. In addition, every federal dollar invested in brownfields remediation and redevelopment creates roughly an $18 return. Dr. Kenyon from Idaho gave an example of a 250,000 loan made to restore a church on a brownfields site raised $2.4 million in less than 2 years, a 356% return on investment.

Voice your support for the BUILD Act

Brownfields redevelopment creates great places on land that was once unusable. The BUILD Act would give communities across the country the option to use this valuable tool.

If you support these strategies, ask your members of Congress to sign on to the BUILD Act of 2013.

As Anderson highlighted in his testimony, the BUILD Act would make crucial improvements to the EPA Brownfields Program. The Act would bring grant levels in line with actual cleanup costs, expand the types of organization allowed to administer grants and allow a small portion of funds to be used for administrative purposes. All of these changes would make it easier for communities to clean up and redevelop brownfields, and that’s something representatives on both sides of the aisle are supporting.

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