WASHINGTON, D.C. — By a vote of 99-0, the U.S. Senate passed legislation late last month that would hasten cleanup of many of the nation’s 500,000 abandoned brownfield sites and pave the way for their commercial and residential redevelopment.
Known as the Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act of 2001, the bill would amend the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) to promote the cleanup and reuse of brownfields and provide financial assistance for their revitalization.
The bill, S.350, would raise federal funding for brownfield clean-up to $150 million a year — nearly double the previous annual amount — and would include an additional $50 million in grants annually to support state cleanup programs.
The bill has been referred to the House’s Committee on Energy and Commerce and Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
S.350 would expand and modify certain programs governed by CERCLA, commonly known as the Superfund Act.
The CERCLA amendment would extend protection from legal and financial liabilities to innocent property owners and developers who undertake cleanup projects.
According to the Congressional Record, the bill would authorize appropriation of $750 million over the next five years for grants to states and other governmental entities for various brownfield initiatives.
An additional $250 million would be authorized over the same period for grants to states and Indian tribes for undertaking voluntary cleanup programs.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that implementation of S.350, if enacted at the end of fiscal 2001, would cost $680 million for fiscal years 2002 through 2006.
Richard Mendenhall, president of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), said enactment of brownfields legislation remains a high priority for realtors.
“Redeveloping abandoned brownfields to viable sites will alleviate growth pressures and rejuvenate local economies,” he said.
NAR President-elect Martin Edwards, Jr. called the legislation “a tremendous victory for realtors across America.”
Edwards noted that one of the benefits of brownfields is that they’re usually clustered near prime real estate and have easy access to existing infrastructure, labor and other resources.
Under Michigan’s brownfield law, owners and operators of contaminated sites are not required to pay for cleanup unless they caused the contamination.
Michigan allows qualified businesses to claim a credit against SBT liability equal to 10% of the investment made.
Credits are granted per project, with total credit of $1 million per eligible investment.
In addition to brownfield credits, projects in 88 urban core communities around the state may also receive credits for functionally obsolete and blighted property.