The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

July 18, 2013

New legislation could aid with redevelopment of brownfields

By STACY MILLBERG - smillberg@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

KINGSVILLE TOWNSHIP — New legislation concerning brownfields could provide tools for communities seeking to redevelop the sites.

Brownfields are abandoned, polluted parcels of industrial or commercial land that are available for re-use.

The legislation, coined the Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development (BUILD) Act, would modernize and improve key elements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields Program by providing additional tools and resources to communities working to redevelop brownfields.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the issue has been a long-time problem in the state.

“Brownfields don’t belong in neighborhoods where children walk to school,” he said.

Brown said there are brownfields all across the state, in big cities and small towns. In Ashtabula County there are three registered brownfields. Advance Technology Corporation and Tackle Hill LLC, 193 Cedar St., in Geneva; the former New York Central Railroad, 2701 North Bend Road, in Saybrook Township; and Plant C, 2715 Lake Road East, in Ashtabula, are classified as brownfields, according to a list compiled by Brown’s office.

There are more than 250 registered sites in the state.

Brownfields are contrasted with greenfields, which are undeveloped land that could be used for development. Brownfield redevelopment has potential hurdles that greenfields don’t face as they could have a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant present which complicates the expansion, redevelopment or re-use of the property.

The BUILD Act would increase clean-up grants and double-funding, Brown said. It would allow more nonprofit organizations to apply for site investment grants and offer technical assistance for low income communities and rural communities, as well as waterfront sites and renewable energy facilities.

The legislation also would allow the EPA to award multipurpose grants that include multiple elements of a project, including site inventory, characterization, planning or remediation for one or more brownfield sites.

Brown said the BUILD Act would maintain funding through 2016.

“We would like to do more at some point, but if we can do this much it will be a great victory,” he said.

The legislation will increase remediation grants from $200,000 to $500,000 per site. It will then be up to the discretion of the EPA director to raise it beyond that, he said.

Brown said the BUILD Act will speed redevelopment by streamlining and increasing certainty on the clean-up process; however, it is unknown exactly how it will expedite the rehabilitation and reutilization of the brownfield sites.

“The backlog is so great,” he said.

Since 1992, the EPA has awarded nearly 140 grants to Ohio communities for site assessments, clean-up, revolving loans and job training.