On Wednesday the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing to examine the many benefits of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields program. The program has been funded for the past several years but is not a formally authorized part of the federal budget. Wednesday’s hearing examined whether that should change.
“Brownfields sites are the heart of America’s downtowns and economic centers,” Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator at the EPA, testified at the hearing. “Reclaiming these vacant and underutilized properties are core to EPA’s community revitalization efforts. Our Brownfields program has been a catalyst for redevelopment and revitalization and hinges on the success of local partners working together to implement the vision of local communities.”
Chariman Bob Gibbs (R-OH) and Congressman Richard Nolan (D-MN) drew attention to the huge popularity of the program, noting that it regularly receives applications for much more funding than it is able to provide. Only one in three applications are funded, and over the past five years 1,700 highly scored projects were not selected simply due to limited of funding.
“To say this program has been a success is understating its achievements,” said Chariman Gibbs.
Mayor Christian Bollwage of Elizabeth, NJ, testified before the panel and explained why the program has been so useful in New Jersey. “Brownfields legislation has made it really possible for the private sector to work with municipal governments and invest in our cities,” he said.
Congressman John Katko (R-NY) and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) shared stories of how brownfields cleanup helped their home districts. Congressman Todd Rokita (R-IN) asked about the myth of brownfields being an issue only in larger urban areas. In reality, 24 percent of Brownfields funding goes to areas with populations under 10,000.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors estimates that there are brownfields in every congressional district in the country, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that there are a total of over 450,000 brownfields sites across the country. Reauthorizing the EPA Brownfields program could help turn each of those sites back into productive parts of our economy.
Speak out for Brownfields redevelopment
In wake of this week’s hearing, tell your member of Congress that you support brownfield cleanup and redevelopment. Take a minute to send a letter to your representative today: