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House committee moves to reauthorize brownfields program

On July 27, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved by voice vote the Brownfields Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 1758) that would reauthorize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) brownfields redevelopment program.

According to the EPA, there are over 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 reenergize 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 and 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, along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Regional Councils, sent a letter to the leadership of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee reiterating support for reauthorization of the program. In March, NACo testified before the Water Resources Subcommittee on how EPA’s brownfields program helps counties redevelop unused or abandoned brownfields sites to promote economic development and 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 (H.R. 3017) that would also reauthorize and make improvements to EPA’s brownfields program. In the Senate, on July 12, the Environment and Public Works Committee 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 (P.L. 107-118). EPA’s brownfields 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.

NACo Resources:

Click here to read NACo’s March 28 joint letter on brownfield priorities

Click here to read NACo’s fact sheet on pending EPA regulations

Click here to read NACo testimony on brownfields