Cities south of Lake O are big winners in EPA brownfields grant program

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced grants to 144 communities nationwide, including five in Florida, at a news conference in Atlanta on Wednesday, April 25. The projects being financed are part of the Brownfields Redevelopment Program, which will give these cities and regional agencies money to conduct environmental assessments and cleanups in locally designated areas.

A $300,000 allocation will be spent for several hazardous substance and petroleum cleanup projects in Pahokee, and another $600,000 funneled through the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council will finance similar projects in Clewiston, Immokalee and Moore Haven.

“EPA’s Brownfields Program expands the ability of communities to recycle vacant and abandoned properties for new, productive reuses, using existing infrastructure,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in announcing the grants. “These grants leverage other public and private investments, and improve local economies through property cleanup and redevelopment.”

Administrator Trey Glenn of the EPA’s Region 4, which includes the Southeastern states of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and the sovereign lands of six Native American tribes, noted that $8.9 million of the total $54.3 million awarded is coming to the Southeast.

“Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup grants target communities that are economically disadvantaged and provide assistance where environmental cleanup and new job opportunities are needed,” he said. “These funds mean a great deal to these communities.”

“Florida has been very successful with our Brownfields Redevelopment Program (BRP) over the years, and our efforts have been strengthened through funding received from EPA Brownfields grants,” Carrie Kruchell, Florida BRP manager and liaison, said. “We are extremely pleased to learn that once again Florida’s communities will benefit from a total of $1.2 million that has been awarded for environmental site assessments in fiscal 2018-19. These assessment grants support this important first stage of protecting and preserving our environment, which sets the stage for future redevelopment and reuse.”

The Brownfields Program targets communities that are economically disadvantaged and provides funding and assistance to transform blighted sites into assets that can generate jobs and spur economic growth. A study analyzing 48 brownfields sites found that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional tax revenue was generated for local governments in a single year after cleanup. This is two to seven times more than the $12.4 million EPA contributed to the cleanup of these brownfield sites. Furthermore, another study found that property values of homes located near brownfields sites that are cleaned up increased by between 5 percent and 15 percent after cleanup.

In addition, communities can use brownfields funding to leverage water infrastructure loans and other financial resources. For example, EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund can be used, under certain conditions, to address the water-quality aspects of brownfield sites and the assessment and construction of drinking water infrastructure on brownfields, respectively. EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program may also serve as a potential source of long-term, low-cost supplemental financing to fund brownfields project development and implementation activities to address water quality aspects of brownfields.

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