|Date:||Thu, 17 Jun 1999 10:35:15 -0700 (PDT)|
|Subject:||NY Governor Proposes Improved State Cleanup Programs|
The Governor's has included some brownfields provisions in his proposal: tax credits, the creation of a new Brownfield Redevelopment Area Grants Program, higher penalties, and expanded public participation. These are mentioned in the second half of the following press release. Tony C. ================================ http://www.state.ny.us/governor/press/year99/june16_2_99.htm FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 16, 1999 Governor Proposes To Improve, Finance State Cleanup Programs Encourages Private Investment in Waste Sites, Adds Staff, Expands Eligibility Governor George E. Pataki today proposed legislation to improve the State's programs to clean up hazardous waste, petroleum and other contamination, including proposing a detailed spending plan to pay for the programs. "This legislation maintains the most stringent environmental and public health standards in the nation while making common-sense reforms that will help us remove more contamination from the environment and return more sites to productive use quickly and safely," Governor Pataki said. "This proposal will help us revitalize urban neighborhoods by bringing jobs and opportunities back to our cities and get abandoned properties that for too long have been forgotten back on the tax rolls," the Governor said. "It will expand the types of sites eligible for cleanup, encourage private investment in contaminated sites, provide tax incentives to innocent parties choosing to clean up and redevelop properties, impose stringent penalties on polluters, add staff to oversee cleanups and provide greater information to the public about contaminated sites. "New York was the first state to create a Superfund program. Twenty years later, we've learned valuable lessons about running effective cleanup programs. These reforms again will return New York to the forefront of the nation in cleaning up environmental mistakes of the past." Paul J. Elston, Board Chair of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, "We are convinced the new regimen of clean-up standards will produce better and more uniform clean-ups across the state and will remove more contaminants from the environment than the previous programs. The Area-wide Brownfields Redevelopment program holds great economic opportunities for inner cities. Finally, we are pleased the Governor put forth a specific proposal on business fees to meet the 50/50 split in funding between the General Fund and special revenues." Jim Tripp, general counsel to the Environmental Defense Fund, said, "We strongly support expanded funded for the State Superfund program, inclusion of hazardous substance sites in the program, clarification of liability rules, development of clear rules on cleanup standards based on use subject to certain restrictions and incentives for the remediation and redevelopment of thousands of acres of brownfields in the State, principally in its older urban areas. The Governor's proposed bill goes a long way to address these basic concerns." "We strongly support the Governor putting this bill forward at this time," Tripp said. "We hope that it will foster a productive dialogue with both the Assembly and Senate, as well as the public, on these issues and lead to much-needed legislation and funding." The Governor's bill calls for changes to the State's Superfund Program, which pays for hazardous waste site cleanups, and the Oil Spill and Voluntary Cleanup programs and is largely based upon the recommendations of the Superfund Working Group. The 17-member group of government, business and environmental leaders was formed last year by Governor Pataki to make recommendations for refinancing and improving the programs. The Governor's bill endorses the "polluter pays" principle, calling for stringent penalties on polluters who refuse to clean up hazardous waste sites, a 50-50 split between taxpayers and industry to pay for the programs on a pay-as-you-go basis and provides liability relief for and financial incentives to parties not responsible for contamination at sites to further encourage the clean up and revitalization of New York's brownfields. Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings said, "The Governor's Superfund Working Group has provided him with excellent recommendations to accelerate the State's cleanup of contaminated sites and we applaud his proposal of the necessary legislation to implement those recommendations. This legislation aggressively tackles a statewide problem and gives us the ability to reclaim important land resources for future generations." Schenectady Mayor Albert P. Jurczynski said, "I am very excited about Governor's proposed legislation. It recognizes our need to accelerate cleanup of contaminated sites to reasonable standards, which is essential to the revitalization of Schenectady. The provisions of a Dedicated Fund, Technical Assistance Grants, the acceleration of Brownfields Redevelopment and Brownfields Area Grants are of particular interest to us in our efforts to put unused land back on the development rolls. These are just the right things this city needs." The Governor's bill establishes a remedial program fund that will be used to finance the State Superfund, Voluntary Cleanup, and Oil Spill programs. The Superfund Working Group projected the total cost to the State for the three cleanup programs to be an estimated $130 million in state fiscal year 2001-02 and that the costs will rise in future years. These costs include State-funded cleanups, additional program staff and enhanced community participation activities. The Governor's bill provides that half of the program funds will come from the State General Fund and half by fees on industry. For State fiscal year 2001-02, the General Fund will provide $69 million with the remaining $69 million funded by: * an 8-cent per barrel fee on petroleum and increasing petroleum bulk storage fees to raise an estimated $26 million; * cost recoveries, fines and penalties against polluters to provide an estimated $11.6 million; * increasing the hazardous waste generator fees to provide an estimated $18.4 million; and * assessments and regulatory program fees currently used to pay the debt service on the 1986 Environmental Quality Bond Act (EQBA) to provide an estimated $13 million. Under the Governor's legislation, the industry fees and the State's General Fund contribution will be deposited in a new remedial program transfer fund and dedicated to refinancing the State's remedial programs. The fees will be reviewed periodically to ensure that adequate funds will be available for the State's remedial programs. Other provisions of the bill include: Brownfield Redevelopment: The Governor's legislation seeks to accelerate the redevelopment of brownfields, which are abandoned, idled, or under-used properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. It recommends tax credits to innocent parties that voluntarily clean up sites. A brownfield redevelopment tax credit for remediation and any improvements to the site and property will be allowable under the five major tax articles of the State: franchise taxes on transportation and transmission companies, agricultural cooperatives and utilities; general business corporations; personal income tax; banking corporations; and insurance corporations. The base credit is 10 percent (corporate) and 8 percent (personal income), with each increased 2 percent if a site is cleaned up to the most stringent soil levels. The Governor's bill also would establish a new Brownfield Redevelopment Area Grants Program to be administered by the Department of State to help local governments or community groups develop comprehensive plans for addressing large, contiguous areas containing several brownfields. The program would provide grants to municipalities and community-based organizations to identify brownfield areas, assess contamination and plan for redevelopment. Higher Penalties: The Governor's bill would impose treble damages on a responsible party that refuses to remediate a property, requiring the State to do so. For example, if the State is forced to spend $1 million to clean up a site because the responsible party refused, the responsible party could be forced to pay up to $4 million to the State -- $1 million for the clean up and $3 million in penalties. Currently, no such penalties are authorized. This will provide greater leverage to compel recalcitrant parties to pay for their pollution. Expanded Eligibility: The Governor's bill would give DEC the authority under the State Superfund Program to clean up hazardous substance sites, which are contaminated with byproducts of obsolete manufacturing processes. DEC estimates that 118 to 161 hazardous substance sites may pose a significant threat to public health and the environment and that the State's share of the cleanup costs for these sites is $252 to $326 million. To encourage remediation of hazardous substance sites with private funds, responsible parties would have -more-one year to commit to address hazardous subs tance sites under the Voluntary Cleanup Program. Expanded Public Participation: The Governor's legislation establishes a Technical Assistance Grants program to provide grants of up to $50,000 per eligible site to help municipalities and community groups evaluate and provide comments on site information developed by the State and the responsible party. The Governor's bill also recommends new and expanded public participation and public notification requirements for sites cleaned up under the Voluntary Cleanup and Oil Spill programs, including requiring, for the first time, public notification and comment on long- term oil spill cleanup plans. Cleanup Standards: To provide certainty, predictability and consistency among the State's many cleanup programs, the Governor's legislation establishes the same cleanup objective for the Superfund Program, the Voluntary Cleanup Program, and long-term remediations under the Oil Spill Program. The bill provides that the cleanup goal will be "protection of public health and the environment and, at a minimum, elimination or mitigation of all significant threats to public health and the environment." The bill provides that the current, future or reasonably anticipated land uses of a site and surrounding properties will be one of nine criteria used when proposing, selecting or approving a cleanup plan. Consideration of land uses is consistent with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency practices at federal Superfund sites. The bill also establishes a technical advisory panel to recommend soil cleanup levels and methodologies that would be protective of public health and the environment. The panel has 18 months to provide its recommendations to the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the State Department of Health (DOH), which would then promulgate soil cleanup standards in three categories: Category 1 would allow a site's use to be unrestricted; Category 2 would allow a site's current, intended or reasonably anticipated use (e.g. industrial, commercial and residential) to occur; and Category 3, would be a process to establish standards on a site-by-site basis using site-specific data that would assure standards are protective for the site's current, intended or reasonably anticipated use. The bill provides financial and legal incentives for parties to clean up sites to Category 1 levels. All soil cleanup levels would use an excess cancer risk of "1 in 1 million," meaning if the public was exposed to a specific level of chemicals that were left in the soil after the cleanup, one person in one million would face an elevated risk of cancer. This is the most conservative risk level used in the country. For comparison, EPA uses a risk range for carcinogens of 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 1 million at the most highly contaminated sites in nation -- Federal Superfund sites. Residential Presumption: The bill provides a presumption that any soil contamination will be cleaned up to residential soil cleanup levels at "Class 1" and "Class 2" -- the most contaminated Superfund sites -- that are not presently in active use, being remediated by responsible parties, and are adjacent to residential areas. This presumption may be overcome by a written finding of the DEC Commissioner after adequate citizen participation. Liability Reforms: The bill calls for common-sense reforms used under federal Superfund and existing DEC practices to focus liability on true polluters, free innocent purchasers from liability and create strong incentives for thorough site investigations and voluntary cleanups. The reforms would not relieve polluters of any financial or legal responsibilities. The bill retains the "polluter pays" principle: The party responsible for contamination should pay for cleanup. It adopts liability limitations and exemptions contained in the federal Superfund that have proven to be fair and feasible in an attempt to maintain liability for polluters and relieve innocent owners of some liability, including a liability exemption for municipalities, lenders, fiduciaries and IDAs that take title to properties they had no role in polluting. The bill also provides that DEC, on behalf of the State, will grant a covenant not to sue parties that have conducted cleanups. The State would reserve its right to pursue these parties for cleanup costs if the cleanup was not done appropriately or in cases of fraud.
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