1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Tony Chenhansa <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1999 11:20:50 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: [CPEO-BIF] "Inner-city cleanups"
CA Center for Land Recycling Response to "Race, class and the brownfields

Oct. 4, 1999 
San Francisco Examiner 


"Inner-city cleanups" 

Scott Winokur's column "Race, class and the brownfields battle" (Opinion
Page, Sept. 21) mischaracterized our views and the reforms we advocate. We
wish to correct this as well as a significant misunderstanding of current
law demonstrated in the Sierra Club's response. 

The California Center for Land Recycling works at ground zero, helping
community groups and local governments recycle brownfields in a way that
protects public health and provides much-needed economic opportunities. It
is a complex task. 

The case study referred to by Winokur and by Carl Pope of the Sierra Club
(letter, Sept. 28) provides an excellent example: a parochial school trying
to acquire an abandoned gas station site for a playground. 

Pope implied that under current law the sole responsibility for cleanup of
the property falls to the oil company that actually caused the
contamination. Not true, especially if that company has gone out of business. 

To the amazement of most people, if the school purchased the site, it could
be solely legally and financially liable for the cleanup of the existing
contamination caused by the oil company. It could be solely liable for
injury caused to anyone by the contamination prior to its taking ownership.
Clearly, the parochial school could not afford the costs or the risk of
ownership. So, no playground, and the property remains an environmental

If you are having a "This can't be true!" reaction, welcome to the
unintended consequences of current law - consequences that
disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities. Other unintended
consequences in the law result in different cleanup levels on comparable
sites - again to the detriment of parties with limited resources. 

Cleanup and productive reuse of most brownfield sites are driven by
economic realities of the market place. The reforms we advocate will
provide consistent cleanup standards and help make reuse economically

George B. Brewster Executive director
California Center for Land Recycling
San Francisco 

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