1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 1999 09:56:12 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Case Studies: Title VI and the Public
[I finally have had a chance to read EPA's "Brownfields Title VI Case
Studies" report, which we described in a June posting. The entire report
is available on the Web at
http://www.epa.gov/swerosps/ej/ejndx.htm#titlevi. - Lenny]

EPA conducted the case studies summarized in the report to determine
whether its "Interim Guidance for Investigating Title VI Administrative
Complaints Challenging Permits" was having a chilling effect on
Brownfields redevelopment. To the extent that the six cities evaluated
in the report are representative, the answer is a convincing "no." But
the report has more useful information. It shows how public involvement,
particularly when encouraged early in the Brownfields process, aids
rather than hinders Brownfields projects.

Title VI is a key section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.
EPA's Interim Guidance, issued in February, 1998 provides a framework
EPA's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to process Title VI complaints
"alleging discriminatory effects resulting from the issuance of
pollution control permits by state and local governmental agencies that
receive EPA funding." If EPA finds that an agency discriminates in the
issuance of such permits - for example, if it allows the concentration
of polluting facilities in communities of color -, it is required to
"initiate procedures to deny, annul, suspend, or terminate EPA funding"
to that agency.

When the Interim Guidance was issued, local officials and private sector
representatives complained that it would discourage Brownfields
redevelopment, since Brownfields tend to be concentrated in inner city
neighborhoods. In response, EPA Administrator Carol Browner promised to
test this hypothesis in a series of case studies. In June, 1999 EPA
published the results, based upon multiple interviews in six cities. The
cities - Camden (NJ), Charlotte (NC), Chicago, Detroit, Lawrence (MA),
and Miami/Dade County (FL) - were selected to represent cities of
varying sizes where Brownfields redevelopment projects are underway.

Four of the case cities have active environmental justice movements.
Community groups are definitely aware of Title VI, since they have taken
or supported complaints in Chicago and Florida. But in none of the
case-study communities has Title VI been considered as a tool for
challenging Brownfields activity.

Interviewees explained this finding in three ways: "1) a relationship of
trust has been developed among stakeholders, municipalities and
developers; 2) almost any development is an improvement over conditions
of contamination and blight, especially if it includes jobs for local
community residents; and 3) the types of redevelopment activities
typically undertaken at brownfields sites are not pollution-heavy or

Conceivably, therefore, the specter of Title VI could make developers
and local governments more likely to select Brownfields projects that
don't pollute or which are designed to win the approval of neighboring
communities. But that's not such a bad thing. And in fact, two
case-study communities actually supported the construction of new cement
factories, on the assurance that they would use modern,
pollution-minimizing technologies.

In five of the cities, public involvement seemed to contribute
significantly to the success of Brownfields projects. For example, "In
Camden and Chicago, involving the community allowed potential problems
to be identified and solved from the beginning when stakes were lower
and design changes could more easily be made. Charlotte representatives
noted that the trust built between the community and the developer and
the fact that involvement continued throughout the project gave
community organizations a sense of ownership in the project and
prevented opposition." Only in Lawrence, where development is taking
place far from residential areas, was public participation minimal.

Developers, at least in case-study communities, often recognize the
value of working with neighboring communities early. "For example, in
Chicago, Charlotte and Detroit, interviewees mentioned that it was
common practice for developers to solicit support from community members
before they invested in a redevelopment project or redevelopment
planning. These 'up-front dialogues' saved time and money for the
developers and got the community in on the ground floor."

In some cases community relations focused on explaining projects to the
public: "In Miami, the Pilot brought in a toxicologist to explain to
concerned citizens the likely emissions from a new type of cement

In others, however, developers actually modified projects in response to
public concerns: "In the Camden Square project in Charlotte, developer
Tony Pressley lowered the height of some of his planned buildings to
address community concerns about light and tree health. Great trust has
been achieved here and, in turn, community groups wrote letters of
support for Pressley, allowing him to get a State brownfields liability
protection agreement." In Miami, a developer responded to community
fears about traffic and dust.

The promise of jobs consistently wins community support for Brownfields
projects. "In Chicago, a developer was interested in spending $2 million
to clean up and redevelop a site, but could not get the necessary
permits from the State because the site was located in a non-attainment
area. Since the developer was going to create jobs for local residents,
the community became an advocate for the project and the developer was
able to get an emissions credit." The developer of the Miami cement
plant won support by promising to train local residents for jobs there.

However, Detroit residents told researchers that they didn't want just
any jobs. One said, "We are not saying 'not in my backyard [to polluting
facilities],' we are saying, 'my backyard is full.' Now it is our turn
for clean jobs."

The report notes, however, that community groups tended to think
community involvement programs have been less successful than local
officials rated them. They said business interests still held more power
in the process, and sometimes "cultural or language barriers prevented
full participation from some community groups." On the positive side,
interviewees felt that continuing education, outreach, and technical
assistance are important components of community involvement.

In addition, Brownfields community involvement can spark related
activity. In Chicago, "relationships built between the City and local
communities during the course of brownfields redevelopment" led to a
community-based enforcement program against illegal dumping, saving the
city money while improving the neighborhood.

In summary, involving neighboring residents in Brownfields redevelopment
not only makes Title VI challenges unlikely. It helps smooth the way to
project completion while increasing the likelihood that the quality of
life in such areas will improve.


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 222B View St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/968-1126

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