County News

Brownfields reauthorization gets boost on Capitol Hill

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure moves bill for $200 million in annual brownfields redevelopment funding

A new bill that preserves the Environmental Protection Agency’s brownfields program cleared a House committee late last month. The program provides financial support to help clean up contaminated sites around the country.

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved — by voice vote — the Brownfields Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 1758) that would reauthorize EPA’s brownfields redevelopment program at $200 million a year. A separate State Response Program is funded at $50 million annually.

According to the EPA, there are more than 400,000 brownfields nationwide. Brownfields are sites that contain environmental contamination, such as old manufacturing and industrial facilities, abandoned mills and mines, and areas with leaking underground storage tanks. Successful brownfields redevelopment sites can re-energize and stimulate entire communities and their local economies.

The Brownfields Reauthorization Act includes several NACo recommendations including increased funding limits for direct remediation grants, creation of a new multipurpose grant that allows entities to conduct assessment and remediation at one or more brownfields sites and expands grant eligibility to government entities that acquired brownfields prior to enactment of the 2002 law.

Prior to the committee’s approval, NACo and other local government associations, sent a letter to leaders on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee reiterating support for reauthorization of the program.

In March, the association testified before the Water Resources Subcommittee on how the brownfields program helps counties redevelop unused or abandoned brownfields sites to revitalize local communities.

On June 28, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce passed a similar brownfields bill, the Brownfields Enhancement Economic Redevelopment and Reauthorization Act of 2017 that would also reauthorize and make improvements to EPA’s brownfields program. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, on July 12, the passed the Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development Act (S. 822). All of the bills are awaiting action on the floor of their respective chambers.

EPA’s brownfields program was originally authorized in 2002 through the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act. The program provides technical assistance and grants for communities to undertake brownfields projects. While the program’s authorization expired in 2006, Congress has continued to fund the program on an annual basis.

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Bev Schlotterbeck
Executive Editor
(202) 942-4249