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.


Omnibus package includes full funding for EPA's Office of Sustainable Communities

A contaminated empty lot is more than just an unsightly nuisance for its neighbors. It’s a financial burden on taxpayers, local businesses and nearby homeowners, not to mention a serious threat to land and water quality.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities helps towns and cities address these kinds of problems and turn them into economic assets. Today Congress is scheduled to vote on the final FY 2012 Omnibus Spending package which includes full funding for the EPA’s Smart Growth Program in fiscal year 2012.

“Today’s vote will be a victory for towns across the country working toward economic prosperity,” said Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. “The EPA’s Office provides towns with the tools they need to overcome some of the largest, most persistent challenges to creating a stronger local economy. We are thrilled that Congress decided to support this program.”


Congress passes DOT and HUD funding for FY 2012

HUD’s Washington DC headquarters. Photo by Flickr user matturick.

The first conference report of the FY 2012 appropriations process – which includes funding for both the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) – passed both the House and the Senate on Thursday.

The bill included funding to maintain the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities at HUD, which will continue to coordinate federal policy with DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency. Together the three agencies compose the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities. By coordinating policy, the Partnership helps make federal investments more effective and efficient.


Congress does not include funding for HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative in FY 2012

Washington, DC – The conference report for the FY 2012 minibus, which includes funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) eliminates funds for the Sustainable Communities Initiative. The program served as HUD’s contribution to the interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a collaborative effort between HUD, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Geoffrey Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America, released the following statement:

“The Partnership for Sustainable Communities is one of the federal government’s most effective tools, and HUD’s crucial role in that program will be almost certainly eliminated by these cuts. If you think building homes that people can afford near jobs and schools is a sound strategy for rebuilding our economy, if you think local governments can partner to deliver service more efficiently, if you want to help communities copy other localities that have saved hundreds of millions in federal infrastructure funding, this was the program for you.


Help protect the EPA's Office of Smart Growth

The House Appropriations Committee just passed legislation that would eliminate funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Smart Growth. We need your help to tell your Representative to reject this proposed cut when the legislation is considered by the full House of Representatives.

Send a letter to your Representative: Don’t cut funds to the EPA’s Office of Smart Growth.

Towns across the country are making better economic and environmental outcomes through their work with the EPA’s Office of Smart Growth.

When Lincoln, Nebraska, needed a hand figuring how its zoning codes were impacting redevelopment efforts in the small city, it asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Smart Growth for guidance.

And when Bluffton, South Carolina, wanted help mapping future growth to make sure it would benefit the town’s economy for years to come, it asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Smart Growth for advice.

The Office of Smart Growth helps communities across the country: Help protect funding for this important program.

Smart growth strategies create the housing, transportation and business resources necessary to keep America competitive in a global, 21st century economy, and the EPA’s Office of Smart Growth is a crucial part of implementing these strategies. We need your help to make sure the Office of Smart Growth receives funding next year: send a letter to your Representative today.


Call Congress TODAY to protect the Partnership for Sustainable Communities

As debate over 2011’s federal budget continues to rage in Congress, funding for two major programs in the Partnership for Sustainable Communities are at risk of being completely eliminated. If you support the smart growth work being done by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, please take a minute TODAY to call your Members of Congress to express your opposition to these cuts.

Here’s how to be an on-the-phone advocate to your Members of Congress:

  1. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for the office of your Senator or Representative. The switchboard will connect you directly. Not sure who you members of Congress are? Click here to find out.
  2. Once transferred, introduce yourself with your name, organization or business and location. Explain that you support the Partnership for Sustainable Communities in both the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Continuing Resolution and FY 2012 Appropriations, and that you oppose:
    • Retraction of the Department of Transportation’s unspent TIGER grant funds;
    • Policy riders that would prevent the Department of Housing and Urban Development from continuing its work with the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

    (Want to know more about these issues? You can find more information and talking points here.)

  3. Thank the staff member and end the call. Repeat steps one through three with your other Members of Congress.
  4. Share this alert with your friends and colleagues. Encourage them to tell their Congressional representatives about their support for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

This week is the time to act. Please call your Members of Congress today to express your support for these important federal programs.