Pallone & Tonko Introduce Bill to Reauthorize Brownfields Program
Today, Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY) introduced the Brownfields Authorization Increase Act 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. This is especially important now, as the Trump Administration attempts to cut funding for Brownfields cleanups and environmental protection in general.”
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 2018 and increasing by $50 million annually to a total of $600 million in 2023 and beyond.
“EPA’s Brownfields Program works to clean up contaminated properties and put them back to use,” Tonko said. “In so doing, it has an important economic multiplier for local communities, turning environmentally degraded areas into productive economically active sites. With an estimated 450,000 brownfield sites across the country, we have a lot of work to do. This legislation delivers funding, flexibility, capacity-building and technical assistance to those that want to turn unproductive land into positive development. I want to thank Ranking Member Pallone for his leadership on this issue, and I look forward to continuing our efforts to reauthorize and expand this proven 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.