1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999 09:40:09 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: [CPEO-BIF] Brownfields legislative concepts
At the Dallas Brownfields conference this week (December 6-8, 1999), it
was clear that the states, as a whole, are gradually reforming their
laws to encourage the remediation and revitalization of Brownfields.
However, it was equally clear that states are doing little to influence
Brownfields projects to meet the needs of the people who "live, work,
study, and play" on or near Brownfields property.

The Environmental Justice/Community Caucus put forward a strong list of
ten "Recommendations for Responsive Brownfields Revitalization," but
thus far no one has translated most of those ideas into legislative
concepts, let alone statutes. Since a number of key states, including
California and New York, are considering new Brownfields laws, I am
putting forward some ideas in the hope that a constructive debate will
lead to more responsive Brownfields laws.

There are many legislative reforms that pertain to Brownfields, but
which affect hazardous waste response in general. I include here, for
example, laws to strengthen the enforcement of institutional controls,
laws that provide for the formation of community advisory groups, and
laws that provided for tiered remediation goals. Some proposals are
good, and some are bad, but in either case such legislation should not
be considered Brownfields legislation - because the impact is much
wider. I fear, in fact, that polluters are trying to use the political
enthusiasm for Brownfields revitalization to weaken state cleanup
programs in general.

Instead, I support an approach that links incentives to measurable
Brownfields goals. That is, the proponent of a Brownfields project would
submit a proposal to a state agency. The agency, with input from a
diverse set of public stakeholders, would grade the proposal against
several measures of success?

To what degree will the project:
* involve the local community in planning?
* protect public health?
* generate local jobs and business?
* provide needed services or housing for the community?
* expand open space or otherwise improve the local quality of life?
* generate additional tax revenue for local agencies?
* retain the existing community and its cultural base?
* provide any of the above in a particularly blighted area?

Each proposal would be graded in each category, and then those grades
would be combined - preferably through qualitative method.

Then each project proponent could seek any of a menu of incentives,
including both financial subsidies and expedited oversight. Each
incentive would have a minimum grade requirement, with some flexibility.
Thus, developers could request tax breaks, insurance subsidies, low
interest loans, and they would receive them if they show that their
projects are designed to benefit the community. This system could be
established with a small number of available subsidies, and new ones
could be added later. Agreements should be written with clawback
provisions, so if a developer promises something - local jobs, for
example - but does not deliver, it might be forced to repay the
subsidies it received for that purpose.

Similarly, environmental and planning regulators could establish
fast-track review processes for proposed projects that score well.
Developers would benefit because "time is money," but they would not
benefit at the expense of public health. Existing cleanup standards -
most of which already base soil cleanup goals on potential land uses or
exposure pathways - would remain.

Brownfields developers often argue that they deserve public support or
relaxed oversight because they are moving forward difficult projects on
abandoned property. This approach would simply ask them to show how
their projects would benefit the public before they receive help.


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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