Legislation has recently been introduced that could help Maine towns and cities put contaminated land back in to economic use. We urge Senators Collins and King and Representatives Michaud and Pingree 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.
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.
Photo Credits:Courtesy of The Trust for Public Land, Jerry Monkman/EcoPhotography