Recently, representatives of NLC and the U.S. Conference of Mayors testified before two House committees to highlight the importance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields program and ask Congress to make several key improvements to the program as they consider reauthorization.

On March 28, New Jersey League of Municipalities’ Past President and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage was joined by NLC President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland, at a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

Mayor Bollwage told the Committee,

“I am pleased to be here today to discuss the role brownfields redevelopment can play to build our 21st Century Infrastructure as well as revitalize communities. For many people, brownfields are just the neighborhood eyesore or the former industrial site, but for Mayors they also represent unrealized potential. Mayors see the redevelopment of brownfields as a chance to bring jobs back to a community, revitalize neighborhoods, increase our tax base, and reuse and enhance already existing infrastructure in a more sustainable way. I cannot stress enough that redeveloping brownfields is such a win-win for everyone involved, that Congress should reauthorize the brownfields law, and make some minor improvements, that would make the program even more successful.”

On April 4, Mayor Bollwage joined fellow-Mayor Sal Panto, Easton, PA, who serves as Chair of the NLC Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Federal Advocacy Committee, to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment.

Suggesting improvements to the law and the program, Mayor Bollwage noted,

“The Act should exempt local and state government from CERCLA liability if the government unit (a) owns a brownfield as defined by section 101(39); (b) did not cause or contribute to contamination on the property; and (c) exercises due care with regard to any known contamination at the site. … Although property acquisition is a vital tool for facilitating the development of brownfields, many local governments have been dissuaded by fears of environmental liability. As a result, we have many brownfield properties that are, what we like to call, ‘mothballed.’ While it hasn’t been a major problem in my community, it is a problem in other communities.”

NLC submitted a letter for the record at both hearings outlining priorities for a reauthorization bill, including increasing or maintaining the overall level of funding for the brownfields program, increasing the overall grant funding to allow communities to cleanup more difficult sites, and resolving the disincentives created by potential liability to facilitate reuse of brownfields properties.

Contact: Jon Moran, jmoran@njslom.org or 609-695-3481, Ext. 121.

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