1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: Wed, 1 Dec 1999 15:45:32 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: [CPEO-BIF] Caucus Recommendations for Responsive Brownfields Revitalization
Original message From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>

[The following document is the joint product of the National Brownfields
Environmental Justice/ Community Caucus. In the terminology
of the government, it should probably be considered Interim Final.

At the Brownfields '99 meeting in Dallas, the Caucus will
convene twice, primarily to discuss strategies for turning these
recommendations into reality.

Monday, December 6, 9-11 am, Adamís Mark Hotel room Houston C.
Tuesday, December 7, 4-5:30 pm, Adamís Mark Hotel room Austin III



The Environmental Justice/Community Caucus consists of people
who live, work, study, and play at or near Brownfields properties. We came
together at the Brownfields '97 and Brownfields '98 conferences, and we
have been working over the past year to develop the following set of
recommendations for improving Brownfields projects.

Though U.S. EPA has taken national leadership in the promotion of the reuse
of contaminated properties, the Brownfields "movement" is much broader.
U.S. EPA should continue to play a key role in helping states and
municipalities identify the best brownfields practices and to provide
oversight where levels of government fail to promote the community's
interest. Development and usually cleanup are
financed and carried out by the private sector, state and local government
agencies, and non-profit organizations. These recommendations are therefore
targeted at all Brownfields stakeholders, not just the Environmental
Protection Agency.

Brownfields properties tend to be concentrated in older urban
areas inhabited by peoples of color or low-income people of all
ethnic backgrounds. These recommendations primarily address concerns
raised by people from urban brownfields communities. It is our hope
that territorial, tribal, and rural representatives will be
engaged in this process and add their concerns to the list. Brownfields
revitalization is an environmental justice issue, and all stakeholders
should work to overcome the barriers to public involvement normally found
in communities of color as well as to address the concentration
of environmental problems typically present in such communities.
All Brownfields stakeholders should aggressively pursue
strategies that deliver equity to those who are most affected by
brownfields properties.

The generic approach to Brownfields redevelopment is not the
silver bullet solution for properties suspected or known to be
contaminated. Some situations require more stringent cleanup requirements
that would make revitalization economically unfeasible. Communities should
have the option of not developing a property if they believe that
development will lead to unacceptable environmental exposures.

1. Community Involvement

We recommend that communities be viewed as assets - partners in, not
obstacles to, revitalization. Communities directly affected by
contamination and blight, or by planned redevelopment or other reuse
projects, shall be given resources to participate effectively during all
phases of Brownfields projects. Where possible, the community shall
determine when, where, and how Brownfields projects are initiated and
finished. Public meetings, advisory boards, and other forms of
communications shall be designed so members of the community,
including youth, can shape, not just react to or comment on, plans for
remediation and reuse. To ensure that members of the public have a
genuine opportunity to shape Brownfields activity in their communities,
public subsidies for assessment, remediation, and development shall be
contingent on the fulfillment of measurable efforts to consult the public.
The full burden of public involvement shall not fall upon government
agencies, however. Other parties - developers, foundations, etc. - are also
obligated to consult the public in all stages of Brownfields
decision-making. All stakeholders in the brownfields revitalization
process, not just the affected community, benefit from full public

2. Community Assistance

We recommend that public programs designed to promote Brownfields
revitalization ensure that community stakeholders affected by Brownfields
have the information, the resources, and the opportunity to take part in
the process. EPA's pilot grant applications and grants shall contain
enforceable provisions requiring that community members be invited to the
table with the resources they need to participate effectively and
constructively. In addition, EPA and other bodies shall provide technical
assistance grants, similar to those available at "Superfund" sites, and
organizing assistance to community groups overseeing large sites, complex
sites, or collections of sites, and they shall support workshops,
leadership development, and other forms of community education. Community
involvement programs shall be designed to overcome language or other
cultural barriers to public participation.

3. Measures of Success

We recommend that the following definition of success be used: Brownfields
projects are successful when they improve public
health and the environment, promote economic recovery without "redlining,"
create ownership opportunities for the community, and/or enhance the
quality of life in targeted brownfields areas. Placing properties back on
the tax rolls is merely one measure of success. In fact, projects with no
or minor direct economic return - such as the creation of safe public open
space or the construction of comfortable, affordable housing - may better
contribute to the long-term economic health of the community. A truly
successful Brownfields community program establishes set timelines for
projects and enables the community to establish the goals for
revitalization. Members of the community (the residents and others most
affected by Brownfields or revitalization), not project proponents, shall
define success.

4. Community Development

We recommend that revitalization protect communities, not force out
long-time residents. Protecting the culture and identity of a community
shall be considered when public resources are used to promote or subsidize
Brownfields projects. Special provisions shall be made to protect residents
against displacement due to rising property values and improving
neighborhood desirability. Such tools may include land trusts, financial
restrictions on housing resale, and tax districts. Government subsidies -
including tax breaks - shall be contingent on the development of
community-approved community protection plans.
In some cases, however, the community may choose the relocation of
residents and businesses.

5. Public Health and the Quality of Life

We recommend that contamination not be "swept under the rug" to rush
revitalization, because people usually live on or near Brownfields. Cleanup
costs shall not be used as an excuse to perpetuate risks in communities
affected by Brownfields. Cleanup standards shall not only be protective in
the short run, but they shall enhance communities' flexibility for future
land use change. Cleanup activities shall avoid risks from toxic releases
and minimize the impact of dust, noise, odor, and traffic. If members of
the affected community believe that a proposed Brownfields project does not
completely address their health concerns, then it shall be sent back to the
drawing board, and project sponsors shall involve community members, in a
comprehensive manner, to address their concerns. If redevelopment-prompted
cleanup does not appear likely to protect nearby residents and businesses,
relocation of those neighbors shall be considered. Government agencies
shall consider subsidizing the difference between containment remedies and
permanent treatment. Adequate funding is needed to support the
participation of public health agencies, at all levels of government, in
Brownfields programs.

6. Community-Based Brownfields Projects

We recommend that EPA and its state counterparts establish
direct funding channels to enable community-based, non-profit
organizations to initiate and implement Brownfields projects where local
government is unwilling or unable to sponsor revitalization activity
desired by the community, or where local government is unwilling or unable
to offer minimal levels of direct community participation. At times local
governments do not share the priorities of community members affected by
brownfields sites, they lack the staff or resources to initiate any type of
brownfields program, or they are unwilling to involve the affected
community. That shall not prevent other levels of government from
supporting projects within those jurisdictions.

7. Financial Planning & Economic Planning

We recommend that government agencies, financial/lending institutions,
foundations and others expand efforts to establish funding sources that
directly support, match, or leverage community-based Brownfields
revitalization. Financiers shall give preference to projects that are 1)
controlled by representatives of the affected community and/or 2) benefit
the public. Even when they have the expertise, community-based
organizations - including community development corporations - often lack
the capital and human resources to create successful Brownfields projects
themselves. Current tax incentives favor the traditional models of
development. Businesses that are given financial incentives shall clearly
show contribution to the surrounding community. Special funding shall be
established for undesirable properties such as orphaned sites.

8. Emerging Brownfields

We recommend that Brownfields revitalization programs be broadened to
support the remediation and reuse of industrial properties still in
operation by both the private and public sector but which, because of their
hazardous nature, are susceptible to closure or relocation. Stakeholders
shall consider a prevention strategy such as a Good Neighbor Agreement to
soften the economic and health consequences - for the owners, workers, and
neighbors - of a necessary shutdown. Businesses cannot be allowed to
operate in a hazardous manner even if they are financially able to pay for
cleanup, abatement, or penalties.

9. Community Needs and Concerns

We recommend that, before Brownfields revitalization takes place,
communities be given technical and monetary resources to describe
systematically their environmental concerns, about both existing conditions
and possible future development, as well as their visions for any
revitalization in their areas. This information may be
collected through surveys or public meetings. Though the expertise of
health and planning agencies is essential, it is also important that
representative members of the community define the scope and mechanisms of
any such study.

10. National Voice

We recommend that brownfields communities be provided with outlets for
national representation. Many important policy decisions about Brownfields
are being made at the state and national level, but today there is no
systematic vehicle for representing community concerns in those
discussions. EPA and other bodies seem willing to listen, but there is no
organized national voice. Some of the members of Environmental
Justice/Community caucus try to represent community views in various
forums, but it directly represents only a small percentage of the nation's
Brownfields communities. Many communities are not organized. Others are
simply not plugged in. EPA and private foundations shall fund a national
Environmental Justice/Community Network on Brownfields. The Network would
implement the following tasks: 1) establish a public participation model
similar in purpose to the ASTM Standard Process Guide of Sustainable
Brownfields Redevelopment, 2) review and provide input on local, state, and
national policies, and 3) share information and experiences among Network


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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