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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Brownfields 97 Conference Kansas City, Missouri

09/03/1997
  Carol M. Browner, Administrator
             U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
                               
                Remarks Prepared for Delivery
                  Brownfields '97 Conference
                    Kansas City, Missouri
                      September 3, 1997




     Thank you, Mayor Marinovich (Mah-RIH-no-vitch), for that warm introduction.

     On behalf of EPA and the entire administration, I want to express my deepest thanks to
you and Mayor Cleaver for playing host to this Brownfields  97 Conference.


     It is entirely fitting that you have this opportunity to showcase what you are doing here in
the "Heart of America" to revitalize your brownfields sites.


     All of us can learn a great deal from the partnership your two cities have forged -- across
state lines, no less -- to tackle the challenges associated with the redevelopment of old, abandoned
industrial sites -- and to give hope a chance in struggling communities.


     I salute your leadership.  We at EPA are proud to have a role in your innovative efforts.
And we look forward to continuing the partnership -- and learning from your experiences -- in the
days to come.


     Let me also thank Governor Carnahan of Missouri, Attorney General Humphrey of
Minnesota, and Mayor Helmke of Fort Wayne -- the President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors
-- and Beverly Wright of Xavier University -- for being here, for bringing their insights and ideas
to this program, and for their abiding interest and support in brownfields redevelopment.  


     And, I want to thank Gary Mitchell and Ron Hammerschmidt of the State of Kansas and
David Shorr and John Young of the State of Missouri for their assistance in organizing this
conference.      


     And thank you -- all of you here today -- for participating in this conference.

     As you know, the federal Brownfields Initiative is in its youth.  This is only the second
national Brownfields conference.


     Who would know it?  Look at the size of this conference -- more than a hundred
workshops and panels -- more than 1,200 brownfields stakeholders from across the country --
many of you ready to contribute your knowledge and share your experiences.  Certainly all of us
are here to learn.  All over this hall, you can feel the enthusiasm, the vigor and the determination
to succeed in meeting the often immense challenges of brownfields redevelopment.


     And if the success of the Clinton Administration's Brownfields Initiative can be measured
in the level of interest we're seeing in cities across the nation, then I think we have every right to
be proud of our efforts.


     Clearly, this initiative is on a roll.  Why?  Because it represents government at its best --
responding to local needs, empowering communities to address their challenges, and helping them
build the partnerships and get the tools they need to build a future of hope and opportunity.


     As such, your ideas matter.  Your contributions are essential.  Your leadership will
continue to be vital to the success and the future of brownfields revitalization partnerships in the
cities across the country.


     The theme for this year's conference is "Partnering for a Greener Tomorrow."  More than
just a slogan, it epitomizes what we have been trying to do in the brownfields arena over the past
few years.
   
    From our earliest efforts, we have believed that addressing the challenges of redeveloping
contaminated, abandoned properties must begin with the process of building strong, effective
partnerships that are anchored in the surrounding communities -- communities that are so often
being held back by the existence of these brownfield sites.


     To test out the partnership concept, our first pilot project in Cleveland was designed
around a brownfields working group that was broadly based --  and made up of county and state
officials, lenders, bankers, businesses large and small, and, of course, neighborhood residents.


     That was the genesis of today's Brownfield Initiative -- which now includes some 115
pilot projects in cities from coast to coast.






     I've visited quite a few of these sites -- Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Sacramento,
St. Louis and elsewhere.  And each time I do, I am impressed by the spirit of optimism and
accomplishment that seems to prevail.  You can feel the potential and the promise of these places
-- the feeling that, one day, these neighborhoods will be thriving commercial centers, places where
people live and work -- and where the future for their children is one of hope and opportunity.


     That is the power of these local partnerships.

     And that is why we are here today.

     EPA is proud to have a role in nurturing the Brownfields Initiative.

     Since the outset of his administration, President Clinton has talked about the need to work
community by community to address the stiff challenges that face our urban areas.


     It is this philosophy that led him to expand the Brownfields Initiative last year -- and to
nearly triple the program's budget for 1998 -- a $50 million increase in the amount of money for
grants to communities for site assessment and development.


     And it is the initial success of these grants -- your success -- that led the Congress to fund
this initiative in the recent balanced budget legislation -- and to pass the administration's $1.5
billion brownfields tax incentive to encourage even more redevelopment.  We expect this tax
incentive will attract $6 billion in new capital investment to help clean up and revitalize some
14,000 brownfields in cities across the nation.


     But we don't stop there.  Last May -- building on Administration actions to revitalize
communities -- Vice President Gore announced the administration's Brownfields National
Partnership Action Agenda -- a two-year federal investment of $300 million for brownfields
cleanup and redevelopment -- which will leverage from $5 billion to $28 billion in private
investment, help create up to 196,000 new jobs, and save thousands of acres of undeveloped
"greenfield" areas from the bulldozer.


     I'm proud to say that one of the most important components of this agenda was derived
from your feedback.  Last year, at the Brownfields  96 Conference, and at many other gatherings
over the past year, we learned from you and your colleagues that lack of coordination among
federal agencies was slowing down your efforts, creating barriers, and unnecessarily duplicating
services at the local level.


     In response, the new agenda calls for more than 15 federal agencies to combine their
resources and work together -- in lockstep -- to help thousands of communities clean up and
redevelop their brownfields.  This "Brownfields National Partnership" includes the Departments
of Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Labor, Interior -- as well as the General
Services Administration and other agencies across the federal government.


     We think this new federal partnership is going to make a big difference in the way cities,
states and the private sector deal with federal agencies on brownfields issues -- more
coordination, more cooperation, fewer hassles, faster progress.


     And I think it's going to make the Brownfields Initiative a larger part of the
Administration's Community Empowerment Agenda, by giving greater support to communities
and providing new tools for economic development.


     But we have also learned from you that we've got to do more to keep the Brownfields
Initiative on track.  Many of you have said to us: "Better coordination among federal agencies
would be great.  It's necessary.  But you've also got to do more to help the folks at the local level
understand the best ways to work with you."


     As the people here in Missouri would say: "You've got to show me."

     That's why we have created the Brownfields Showcase Communities Project.
   
    In the coming months, EPA and our federal partners will designate 10 Brownfields
Showcase Communities across the country, and give them the mission of demonstrating to the
rest of the nation how to coordinate their brownfields activities and how to work with all levels of
government to proceed with the assessment, cleanup and sustainable re-use of their brownfields.


     These Showcase Communities will be the models for successful Brownfields
redevelopment.  Many of you here today represent communities that would be excellent national
showcases, and I strongly encourage you to apply.  We have nothing but the highest hopes for
this new project.


     In addition to Showcase Communities, we are about to embark on yet another exciting
new direction for our program.


     Again, we are responding to the feedback we have received from cities -- and particularly
the U.S. Conference of Mayors -- who told us: "The assessment pilots are great when it comes
getting our communities started in the process.  But once the community involvement plans are in
place and the inventories and site assessments are completed, how do we get the funds to start
cleanup.  In many cases, we simply can't recover from the owner of the site."


     So we have come up with something we call the Brownfield Revolving Loan Cleanup
Demonstration Pilots.


     The revolving loan concept -- which has worked so well to help localities leverage money
in other environmental protection and economic development initiatives -- will make low-interest
loans available to developers and small businesses that might not otherwise have access to capital
for cleanup.


     We expect to announce more than 20 Revolving Loan Fund Cleanup demonstration pilots
by the end of this month.  Our first 29 site assessment pilots were eligible in 1997, and if Congress
authorizes us to do so, we will fund even more brownfields cleanup pilots next year.


    Again, these initiatives are based on your suggestions.  And I want to thank those of you
who have worked with us and contributed your energy and creativity into making this
Brownfields Initiative as successful as it can possibly be.


     This initiative has a great future.  I am convinced that more and more Americans will see
the value of these local brownfields partnerships as we move into the payoff stage -- when all of
the vision and hard work is translated into new development, new jobs and a brighter future for
communities that were once held back by the existence of a brownfield in their midst.


     I'm talking about a ribbon-cutting that's going to happen soon in Buffalo, New York,
where a former steel factory -- an abandoned, ghastly, rusting eyesore and health hazard -- has
been transformed into a $25 million dollar state-of-the-art hydroponic tomato farm and packing
facility that will soon employ 200 people.


     I'm talking about a site in Dallas that used to be known -- if you can believe it -- as the
"Old Roach Paint Factory."  Today, that blighted structure is gone -- having been torn down by a
developer who is now ready to begin construction on millions of dollars worth of homes and
businesses.  The surrounding community now has a future.


     And I'm talking about a tiny town called Cape Charles, located in the poorest county in
Virginia on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.  Yes, small towns have brownfields, too.  But in
Cape Charles, an old shipping facility and railyard is being transformed into a 155-acre "eco-industrial park," which in a very short time has attracted a European solar technology company to
build a plant.  Today, former crab-pickers are making solar cells.  And there's a promise of more
jobs to come.


     What do these redevelopment efforts have in common?

     Visionary leadership at the community level.  Determination to build a better future.
Energy and innovation.  People working together in partnership.  And a Brownfields pilot grant to
get their efforts off the ground.


     In the end, millions of dollars of new development.  Jobs created.  Hope restored.

     And all for a very small investment of federal money.

     These are among the first few success stories.  There will be many more to follow.  I am
convinced of that.


     Thank you again for being a part of this fabulous initiative.  Let's keep it going.  Let's
keep it growing.  Let's continue to do our part to ensure that no one is left behind as we march
into the 21st Century.


     Best of luck to you all.

     I am delighted to introduce our next speaker, who knows something about building
partnerships, spurring economic development and turning communities around.


     He brings with him the knowledge and experience he has gained during a long career in
public and civic affairs right here in Missouri -- a career that has included service as a municipal
judge, a state legislator, state treasurer and now, in the state's highest office.


     We are delighted to have him with us here today.  Let us warmly welcome Missouri
Governor Mel Carnahan.