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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Seventh Annual Brownfields Conference "Investing in the Future", Charlotte, North Carolina

11/13/2002
Speeches & Testimony

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,

Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, at the Seventh Annual
Brownfields Conference "Investing in the Future" Charlotte, North Carolina

November 13, 2002

Thank you, Marianne (Horinko), for that introduction, and, more important, for all the
work you and the people of our Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response are doing
to help communities invest in the future by solving the environmental problems of the past.

I also want to thank my friend Mayor Patrick McCrory for extending the warm hospitality of
this city to us. Mayor McCrory is a national leader in the fight to reclaim the thousands of
brownfields that remain in America and I appreciate his leadership.

This is EPA's seventh annual brownfields conference and I understand it is the largest yet. It
is also the one that has the most to celebrate, because earlier this year we saw the results
of nearly a decade worth of effort when President Bush signed into law long-overdue
brownfields legislation.

I wish you all could have been there on that January day in Pennsylvania to see the
President put pen to paper and make the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields
Revitalization Act the law of the land.

It was the most important piece of environmental legislation to come out of the 107th
Congress and it shows what can happen when people put politics aside and work together
for commonsense ideas that serve the common good.

I am pleased to report that our Administration followed up on the enactment of this law by
requesting $200 million in brownfields funding for the current fiscal year – more than
doubling the previous year's commitment. I am optimistic that Congress will provide these
funds once it completes its work on the budget.

With the passage of this new law, the brownfields landscape has changed – changed for the
better. It not only means more money for brownfields reclamation, it also means
much-needed liability reform. The new law will make it easier for communities to reclaim
their brownfields for productive use.

In addition, the new law clarifies the federal and state relationship in brownfields
assessment, cleanup, and reuse recognizing that more often than not, those closest to
the problem are best able to find the right solution.
What's most exciting about the new law are the opportunities it provides for you and for us
to work together to expand on the success America's communities have already achieved in
reclaiming brownfields.

Working together, we have made tremendous progress. To date, EPA's brownfields
assistance has leveraged more than $4.6 billion in private investment, helped create more
than 20,000 jobs and has resulted in the assessment of more than 4,000 properties.

Money for brownfields is one of the best investments Washington makes. Every dollar we
spend leads to two-and-a-half dollars in private investment. And the return for the
environment is even more impressive every acre of brownfields that is reclaimed saves
four-and-a-half acres of greenspace.

But as impressive as this progress is, there is clearly more to be done. That is why EPA's
National Brownfields Program has set our four major goals for the future. I'd like to take just
a few minutes to share those goals with you.

First, and foremost, of course, is protecting the environment. This is at the core of our efforts
nationwide to reclaim the thousands of brownfields that still mar our neighborhoods and
communities. Of course, we recognize and applaud the fact that many other benefits
flow from these efforts, such as new jobs as a stronger local tax base. But our main focus is
environmental protection.

As many of you know, the most important tool we have to directly promote this goal is our
Brownfields Assessment, Cleanup, Revolving Loan Fund and our Job Training Grants. Over
the past two years, I have had the chance to travel all around our country and deliver grants
to communities that have qualified and to see what a difference earlier grants have made to
the lives of other communities.

I know that many of you have seen the same thing in your own cities and towns. Every time
I see a ballfield where a brownfield once stood, or a bustling office building where an empty
and abandoned factory once loomed, I am reminded of how much good we can do when we
work together as partners.

And that brings me to our second goal to strengthen the partnerships we've already
established and build new ones wherever they're needed. By Partnering for Success, we
can leverage not only the resources of the private sector, but of our state and federal
partners as well.

EPA is not the only federal agency with a vested interest in reclaiming brownfields. There
are many others, ranging from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency.

To harness all these efforts, I am pleased to announce the Administration's new Brownfields
Federal Partnership. This partnership will involve more than 20 different federal agencies and
departments in a united effort to help communities turn environmental eyesores into
community assets.

Together, EPA and our federal partners have already made more than 100 specific
commitments to partnership. These commitments include such things as an interagency
effort led by NOAA to focus on the redevelopment and reuse of ports and harbors, an Army
Corps effort to undertake 8 brownfield pilot projects under its Urban Rivers Initiative, and a
commitment from the FDIC to work with us to make its Money Smart financial education
program available to those in our communities that want to help restore a brownfield to
productive use.

Oh, and one more thing under our new Brownfields Federal Partnership, the EPA has
agreed to provide a projected $850 million for assessment and cleanup over the next five
years for brownfields efforts across America. We are also working with such federal partners
as HUD, Interior, Justice, Labor, and the Economic Development Administration to identify
ways they can help invest in future brownfields reclamation efforts.

In addition to these federal partnerships, we look forward to renewing partnerships at the
regional level with state and tribal governments and with others who share our goals and
want to work with us.

Of course, I recognize that the indispensable element in so many successful brownfields
projects in the private marketplace – the visionary business leader or entrepreneur who can
look at a crumbling building on a weed-choked lot and see opportunity. That is why our third
goal is to strengthen the private marketplace for brownfields investment.

EPA doesn't have to be – indeed, we don't want to be – involved in every deal made around
the country to reclaim a brownfield. We are there to help when needed. When and if we're
not, please, go ahead without us. I promise you, we won't mind.

The new law the President signed will help stimulate new investment because it removes
much of the uncertainty that too often discouraged the private sector from getting involved. It
provides liability protection to redevelopers and exempts innocent landowners, prospective
purchasers, and contiguous property owners from being liable for cleaning up messes they
had nothing to do with creating.

Some of the most successful former brownfield sites I've visited were the result of a vision a
forward-looking, persistent, and patient business leader had for his or her community. We
want to do all we can to encourage more of these efforts in every corner of America.

The fourth goal we've identified is really at the heart of what drives the entire brownfield effort
sustaining property reuse. Ours is a big country with a lot of land, much of it still unused.
The temptation has long been to just go a little farther out, just develop that next parcel of
land.

In the 19th century, we told ambitious young people to "Go west." But now, in the 21st
century, we must change the locus of our progress from land that's never been used to land
that has once been used and can again be made useful.

As I mentioned earlier, every acre of reclaimed brownfield saves 4.5 acres of greenspace.
But it's more than that. Brownfields reclamation also takes advantage of the infrastructure
already in place, saving dollars that then don't have to go to extending sewers and water
systems, electric and gas lines, and roads and bridges beyond already developed areas.

We are working with communities to help break the cycle of contamination and blight by
supporting projects that reuse brownfields with green buildings and cleaner energy
generating facilities. By recycling and reusing our land and making sure the new uses are
environmentally friendly we can create a future that in which both our environment is
protected and our economy can expand. That's why they call it Smart Growth. This year
saw some of the most important accomplishments in years in our national brownfields effort.
The year 2002 will be remembered as the year we knocked down the roadblocks,
strengthened the partnerships, affirmed Washington's financial commitment, and unleashed
the energy and creativity of the private sector. That's why, several years from now, we will
look back and see that it was in 2002 that the stage was set for what will be a truly
extraordinary period of progress in revitalizing America's neighborhoods by restoring
America's brownfields. I am delighted you want to be a part of this effort and look forward to
continuing our work together to turn America's brownfields into fields of dreams.