Following Proposed Cuts, King Pushes for Full Funding of EPA Brownfields Program to Support Rural Maine Economic Development Initiatives

Since 1994, Maine has received $72 million through the program for community-wide assessments, economic revitalization and cleanup of former mill sites

WATERVILLE, ME In the wake of the Trump Administration's proposal to slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) this week signed a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to fully fund the EPA’s Brownfields Program in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget. The EPA's Brownfields Program assists states and local communities as they assess, safely clean up, and reuse Brownfield sites – properties that contain a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant, which hinders the potential to reuse or redevelop the site – for economic development projects.

“This important program drives economic growth by providing funds and technical assistance to assess and clean-up contaminated property sites for redevelopment, and helps promote successful local economic development in communities across the United States,” Senator King and his colleagues wrote. “Using funds from the Brownfields program, communities are able to convert liabilities into productive local assets. In the past, Brownfield funds have successfully laid the groundwork for manufacturing plants, commercial spaces, housing, community recreation facilities, and parks. Redeveloping contaminated properties creates jobs, improves environmental quality, and boosts local and state tax revenues.”

Brownfields are properties where moderate contamination threatens environmental quality and public health and can interfere with productive reuse of the sites. As of January 1, 2017, the EPA’s Brownfields program has assessed 25,296 properties, made 63,900 acres ready for reuse, supported the creation of 117,525 jobs, and led to $22.612 billion in funding for revitalization projects since the program’s inception in 1995. A 2017 study published in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists found that residential properties values increased up to 15.2 percent once surrounding brownfields were assessed or cleaned up.

Since 1994, Maine has received more than $72 million through the Brownfields Program. The January assessment from the Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) – originally requested in March 2016 by Senators Collins and King – highlighted the importance of the Brownfields Program and its potential to leverage federal resources to redevelop former industrial sites, support the viability of impacted mill communities and help to grow Maine’s rural economy.  That same month, Eastern Maine Development Corporation was awarded $200,000 through the program to support a development and implementation strategy in Bucksport for the former Verso Paper Mill project area.

Joining Senator King were Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

The full text of the Senators’ letter is included here and below:

The Honorable Lisa Murkowski                                 The Honorable Tom Udall

Chairman                                                                     Ranking Member

Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior,                 Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior,

Environment & Related Agencies                              Environment & Related Agencies

522 Hart Senate Office Building                                531 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510                                              Washington, DC 20510                                                                                             


Dear Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall:

We are writing to ask you to reject the proposed cuts in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Brownfields Program in the President’s FY2018 budget request, and to continue funding it at least at the current level of $154 million. This important program drives economic growth by providing funds and technical assistance to assess and clean-up contaminated property sites for redevelopment, and helps promote successful local economic development in communities across the United States. Using funds from the Brownfields program, communities are able to convert liabilities into productive local assets. In the past, Brownfield funds have successfully laid the groundwork for manufacturing plants, commercial spaces, housing, community recreation facilities, and parks. Redeveloping contaminated properties creates jobs, improves environmental quality, and boosts local and state tax revenues.

As of January 1, 2017 the EPA’s Brownfields program has assessed 25,296 properties, made 63,900 acres ready for reuse, leveraged the creation of 117,525 jobs, and $22.612 billion in funding since the program’s inception in 1995.  Further, EPA has found that approximately $16.11 is leveraged for each dollar the EPA Brownfields program spends and 8.5 jobs leveraged per $100,000 of EPA brownfields funds expended on assessment, cleanup, and revolving loan fund cooperative agreements. A study found that residential property values increased 5% to 15.2% once a nearby brownfield was assessed or cleaned up.

Given the high success of EPA’s Brownfields Program and its direct importance to economic recovery in rural and urban communities nationally, we are requesting that the program be adequately funded.  While much has been done over the past two decades to clean-up and assess contaminated sites, a strong need still remains. EPA’s Brownfields Program is making necessary investments that are helping to rebuild our country and to stimulate economic growth and jobs in our cities and towns. 

Thank you for your consideration of our request.  We recognize that there are many competing priorities facing your subcommittee and we hope that you will support this program.                    

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