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Pallone & Tonko Introduce Bill to Reauthorize Brownfields Program

July 15, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee and Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY), top Democrat on the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee, introduced the Brownfields Authorization Increase Act (H.R. 5782) to boost funding to clean up and redevelop brownfield sites across the country.

The Brownfields program was created in 2002 by legislation authored in the House by Pallone and the late Republican Ohio Rep. Paul Gillmor. The program assists communities with the cleanup of former industrial properties where redevelopment is complicated by the presence of environmental contamination. At that time, there were an estimated 450,000 brownfields properties in the U.S. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 59,000 areas have been revitalized.  

“Since its creation, the Brownfields program has been an incredibly important tool for protecting public health and spurring economic growth in New Jersey and throughout the country,” Pallone said. “This legislation reauthorizes this important program and provides critical funding to local communities to transform former factories, abandoned lots, and other vacant facilities into community centers, parks, and new businesses.”

Since the program’s authorization expired in 2006, appropriations for the program have steadily declined. The Brownfields Authorization Increase Act includes increased funding levels and more flexibility in what organizations are eligible for the funds. The bill increases overall EPA funding for Brownfields grants, beginning with $350 million in 2017 and increasing by $50 million annually to a total of $600 million in 2022 and beyond.

“With over 100 million people living within three miles of a brownfield site that has received EPA funding, it is no wonder that these sites can be found in every congressional district,” Tonko said. “EPA’s Brownfields Program has an incredible track record of cleaning up and restoring property to productive use, but there is strong consensus we can take steps to improve the program. This legislation provides the funding, flexibility, capacity building, and technical assistance needed to make that happen. I thank Ranking Member Pallone for his leadership on this issue, and I look forward to continuing our efforts to reauthorize and improve EPA’s Brownfield Program.”

EPA has found that cleaning up underutilized or abandoned brownfields properties reduces health risks, decreases pollution and reduces storm water runoff.  Aside from the environmental benefits, revitalizing these properties can result in crime reduction, job creation, and boosts in the local economy. The program has created more than 97,000 new jobs nationwide.

“Across America, communities continue to endure the detrimental impacts of brownfields including the loss of jobs, property value, and the decline in health and environmental quality,” said Christopher Coes, Director of LOCUS and the National Brownfields Coalition. “The Brownfields reauthorization act, proposed by Rep. Pallone and Rep. Tonko is major step forward to providing local governments, non-profits and the private sector the flexibility and resources needed to restore these contaminated and unproductive brownfields into healthy and economically vibrant communities.”