House passes brownfields reauthorization bill

Swamp Rabbit Trail, a former railroad line and brownfield site in Greenville, SC was remediated using the EPA Brownfields program. Today the site is the backbone of an extensive pedestrian and bicycling trail system in the county. Photo via Flickr.

We’ve got great news to share with you. Late yesterday, the House approved legislation that will help more communities restore contaminated land to productive use, allowing redevelopment and revitalization in towns and cities, small and large.

Thursday night, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3017, the Brownfields Enhancement, Economic Redevelopment, and Reauthorization Act of 2017, that would allow up to $250 million to clean up brownfield sites each year. Smart Growth AmericaLOCUS and the National Brownfields Coalition support the bill’s provisions and commend the bill’s sponsors for their hard work to bring this bill to fruition.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields program has been instrumental in creating thousands of jobs, and helping communities prevent, assess, safely clean up and sustainably restore over a million acre contaminated lands known as “brownfields.”

H.R. 3017 improves the brownfields program by:

  • Funding the program at an annual level of $200 million through fiscal 2022.
  • Expanding brownfield grant eligibility to nonprofit groups and partnerships, such as community development organizations.
  • Allowing the EPA to award multi-purpose grants of as much as $1 million to cover different activities or remediation at more than one site, and
  • Increasing the maximum amount for other grants to $500,000 per site, from $200,000 with a new cap as large as $750,000 per site.

These modifications will help communities return blighted properties to productive use , paving the way for smart growth, and new economic growth and investment for the communities impacted by contaminated, unusable land.

This is good news, but there’s still more work to do. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies is recommending $153.2 million for EPA’s Brownfields Program, $9.9 million less than the House’s $163.2 million recommendation. The House and Senate are expected to negotiate the final FY 2018 appropriations bill by the end of the year.

Smart Growth AmericaLOCUS and the National Brownfields Coalition thank you for your continued advocacy and support of healthy, prosperous, and socially equitable communities.

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