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May 25, 2017

King Announces Support for Bill to Strengthen Vital Rural Economic Redevelopment Program

Bipartisan legislation would strengthen critical EPA Brownfields Program which has invested millions of dollars towards economic redevelopment in Maine

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today announced that he has cosponsored the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act, bipartisan legislation that would strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields Program.

The Brownfields program, which enjoys strong bipartisan support, assists states and local communities through grants and technical assistance 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. The BUILD Act would improve the program by providing funding for technical assistance grants to small communities and rural areas, expand the scope of eligible grant recipients to include non-profit community groups, and authorize funding for multi-purpose grants to tackle more complex sites.

            “The Brownfields program has been critical to Maine, helping local communities promote redevelopment efforts and drive economic growth,” Senator King said. “With the assistance of this program, we have seen communities throughout the state successfully convert otherwise unusable liabilities into productive assets – particularly in rural Maine. This legislation will build on that success by strengthening the program and extending its reach.”

Since 1994, Maine has received more than $72 million through the Brownfields Program, which has been highly successful in cleaning up contaminated properties for redevelopment, including Eastern Fine Paper in Brewer, American Tissue in Augusta, Maine Street Station in Brunswick, and Old Howland Tannery in Howland.

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.

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.

More specifically, the BUILD Act would:

  • Authorizes up to $7,500 in technical assistance grants to eligible entities in small communities, Indian tribes, rural areas, and disadvantaged areas.
  • Expands the eligibility for Brownfields grants for nonprofit organizations to include certain nonprofit organizations, limited liability corporations, limited partnerships, and community development entities.
  • Increases the funding limit for remediation grants to $500,000 for each site, with some exceptions for higher funding, and authorizes multi-purpose grants up to $950,000, which provide greater certainty for long-term project financing.  
  • Allows certain government entities that do not qualify as a bona fide prospective purchaser to be eligible to receive grants so long as the government entity did not cause or contribute to a release or threatened release of a hazardous substance at the property.
  • Allows eligible entities to use up to 8 percent of their Brownfields grant funding for administrative costs.
  • Directs EPA in providing grants to give consideration to brownfield sites located adjacent to federally designated floodplains.
  • Requires EPA to establish a program to provide grants of up to $500,000 to eligible entities and to capitalize a revolving loan fund to locate clean energy projects at Brownfields sites.
  • Reauthorizes the Brownfield program at the same authorized funding level ($250 million per year) through fiscal year 2018.

Earlier this year, in the wake of the Trump Administration's proposal to slash funding for the EPA, Senator King signed a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to fully fund the Brownfields Program for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget.

The bipartisan legislation was introduced earlier this year by Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and has also been cosponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).


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