1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Emery Graham <"egraham"@ci.wilmington.de.us>
Date: Wed, 5 May 1999 10:22:33 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Re: Definition, VCPs, and Brownfields

It's interesting to note the dimension of this "definition of brownfields"
issue. It seems to be in terms of an  "inclusion vs exclusion" contention.
My question
is about this dialog is "why is the definition of a brownfield important to
the goals of the program?  When we understand that brownfields are sites
that are hazardous waste sites, or are perceived to be hazardous waste
sites, the issue of whether to include sites that are undesirable because
the contaminant is petroleum takes on a different character. I can see
where those interested in the
number of brownfield sites might be concerned re the volume of work, but
for those of us who are connected to the human suffering dynamics related
to chemical toxins, the salient issue of definition is found in the notion
of "hazardous
chemical," in the phrase "danger to life, health, and safety."

What is becoming clear is the low voice of those hybrid persons who  live
in brownfield areas, work on some aspect of brownfields, and maintain an
critical philosophic position. I understand the implications of taking a
liability, health, and social investment position around the issues of
brownfield clean up. One of the most promising, and challengeing, positions
is that of using governmental power to redistribute wealth as a result of
the local nature of development and the political majority position of
people of color and poor whites who inhabit the brownfields areas, i.e., no
building permits or business licenses to developers unless local community
groups, poor individuals, etc., are
made equity partners in the resulting commercial venture; unless there is a
joint venture to train and hire for cleanup work and resulting commercial
jobs, etc. These relationships have a positive history in the discourse of
economic development as represented in the UDAG agreements of the '70's and
'80's. Rosenthal at Howard Univ.'s Continuing Ed unit is working on a
"stakeholder to
stockholders" program. There is a grand opportunity for those of us who
have enough commitment and comfort to address the technology and practice
available to
actually change the "relationships" of historical disenfranchisement on
political, economic, and social dimensions. After all, the private sector
to internalize all of their costs of production; that's pretty much the
reason why we have hazardous waste sites; isn't it?

Now we're working to find ways to pay the private sector to come in and
clean up, and make productive, the areas that they, collectively, polluted.
At some point the contradictions of what we do will meet us in times and
places that we least expect unless we begin the process of realigning the
conflicting issues and relationships.

Peter B. Meyer wrote:

> Lenny is 100% correct: CERCLA excludes petroleum-only sites, thus
> neither the NPL-related activities, nor the Brownfield Pilots, nor the
> Brownfield Cleanup Revolving Loan Funds can address petroleum-only
> contaminated sites.
> HOWEVER, and Kristen tried to make this point, the EPA definition of a
> "brownfield" does NOT make this exclusion -- and thus is a useful common
> frame for discussing the issue of policies toward brownfields.
> This subject arose from the Peter Strauss - Kristen Yount exchange that
> Peter broadcast, and reflects a serious confusion. Let me illustrate
> from that discussion:
>      Peter Strauss noted that "As a follow-up to Peter Meyer's
> response,  not all voluntary cleanup programs (VCPs) apply to
> "Brownfield" sites.  I have seen many non-brownfield type sites in
> California where a VCP was entered into."
>      However, under the EPA brownfield definition we have read again
> today, the occurrence Peter Strauss describes is simply not possible,
> except for previously residential sites:
>     Q   -- why would any site go through a VCP if it did not have to?
>     A   -- when its "expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or
> PERCEIVED environmental                 contamination." (-- my emphasis.)
> Thus, what Peter S. described involves a definition of a brownfield very
> different from that used by EPA (and, increasingly, by the other related
> agencies, both state and federal.)
>         This discussion pivots on the definition - and it is more than mere
> nit-picking: in Pennsylvania, for example, many sites that they state
> agency said were "below their horizon" with respect to levels of
> pollution get pushed through the state VCP to provide extra secutiry to
> the buyers -- and, not incidentally, possibly get a higher sale price
> for the sellers. Since the state offers the VCP reivew and certification
> process for free, is it subsidizing land prices with dollars that should
> ideally go for other environmental protection purposes?
>         Unless we are clear on what kinds of sites we are talking about, we
> cannot get to the position of asking the last question -- that is why
> EPA tried to generate a standardized definition (and why, I believe)
> they went beyond a definition limited exclusing petroleum-only sites.
>         Can we move to a convention of meaning the EPA definition except
> we explicitly say otherwise?
> (Tony - can you offer the definition in the automtic acknowledgement you
> send to new subscribers to CPEO-BF?  It might help us all)
> Peter M.
> --
> Peter B. Meyer
> Professor of Economics and Urban Policy
> Director, Center for Environmental Management
>  and Environmental Finance Center
> University of Louisville
> 426 W. Bloom Street / Louisville, KY 40208
> (502) 852-8032    Fax: (502) 852-4558

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