Brownfields bill BUILDs a path to neighborhood revitalization

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Lautenberg (D-NJ), Inhofe (R-OK), Crapo (R-ID) and Udall (D-NM) introduced legislation last Thursday that could help Maine towns and cities put contaminated land back in to economic use. We urge Senators Collins and King to add their support to this bill.

The Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act of 2013 reauthorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields program and makes several improvements to how the program functions.

“If you’ve ever been to Bayside Trail in Portland, you’ve experienced what brownfields redevelopment can do,” said Nancy E. Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine. “That’s just one of the many brownfield sites across the country that have been successfully cleaned up and rebuilt. This bill has the potential to change the face of Maine communities for the better. We thank Senators Lautenberg, Inhofe, Crapo and Udall for their leadership on this important issue.”

In 2005, the City of Portland purchased a 13.2-acre former railroad property that runs through the Bayside neighborhood from the Eastern Promenade to Deering Oaks Park. Today, with the help of numerous groups such as the Trust for Public Land, Portland Trails and GrowSmart Maine, the Bayside Trail has turned a former industrial area into a livable, walkable, vibrant urban amenity. The trail, together with pocket parks, gardens, and public gathering areas, is a focal point for cultural activities and community programs, contributes to the economic vitality of the city, and improves the quality of life for the tens of thousands of residents, workers, and visitors. In addition to providing a safe, pedestrian friendly pathway through the Bayside neighborhood, this ribbon of green provides a new gateway for Maine’s largest city.

The BUILD Act would make restoration efforts more flexible and easier. It expands non-profit eligibility to receive brownfields grants, making the process simpler for smaller towns and cities. It also raises the limit for site remediation grants from $200,000 to $500,000 per site. In addition, the new multi-purpose grant authority adds flexibility to allow communities to respond to the highest priority sites with appropriate site assessment and/or cleanup assistance.

“These changes are a win for everyone – Congress, local governments, business owners and taxpayers,” said Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. “Brownfields restoration drives economic growth while giving local governments the flexibility to pursue the projects they need the most. The positive impact of this
doesn’t need explaining: transforming a community’s financial sinkhole into a new business or residential building is a no-brainer.”  

“The brownfields program helps communities that are struggling to overcome blight and contamination at abandoned industrial sites, while also aiding in the re-positioning of these vacant properties to create new engines of economic growth,” said Evans Paull, Executive Director of the National Brownfields Coalition.  

Today it is estimated that more than 450,000 sites in the United States are contaminated and abandoned. Known as “brownfields,” nearly every community in the country has at least one such site. At an average of 6.5 acres each, that’s 4,570 square miles of contaminated land across the country that could be helped by the BUILD Act.

GrowSmart Maine is a statewide, non-partisan, non-profit that actively brings together Maine citizens, government, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to work for a more sustainable prosperity that supports both an improving standard of living and the protection of this state’s unique character, our quality of place. For more information visit: www.growsmartmaine.org

The National Brownfields Coalition, a coalition of Smart Growth America, is a group of national, state and local organizations that supports federal policies that will accelerate cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated and abandoned land. The Coalition represents diverse economic, community, environmental, and development interests that share a common mission: promoting brownfields redevelopment as a core strategy for achieving job growth, community revitalization, and sustainable growth objectives.  For more information visit: http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/brownfields.

Smart Growth America is the only national organization dedicated to advocating for better development strategies in communities nationwide. From providing more sidewalks to creating more homes near public transportation or that productive farms remain a part of our communities, smart growth helps make sure people across the nation can live in great neighborhoods. For additional information visit: www.smartgrowthamerica.org.

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