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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Brownfields Showcase Summit- Washington, D.C.

10/18/1999
Brownfields Showcase Summit
                        Washington, D.C.
                        October 18, 1999

     Good afternoon. I want to thank Mayor Malloy for that introduction. I had a chance over the summer to visit Dan in his city of Stamford, Connecticut, and see first hand some of the city's plans to redevelop their harbor area and surrounding neighborhoods.
     And I was happy to hear that earlier this month, Stamford became the first city in the nation to issue a development loan from EPA's Brownfield revolving loan program. My congratulations to the Mayor and to Seth Weinstein of Clearview Investment -- the company spearheading the redevelopment.
     I also had a chance to meet briefly with East Palo Alto Mayor R.B. Jones. And I was excited to hear about the plans the Mayor and his City Council have developed -- as part of being a Showcase Community -- to re-energize their city's downtown.
     And these are just two of the 16 Showcase Communities represented here today, including community leaders from my home   South Florida.
     I think all of us here intuitively know something: That redeveloping those idle industrial sites we call Brownfields is both good for the economy and good for the environment.
     Brownfields don't have to be dark obstructions to growth. They can be golden opportunities for development.
     But now we have some research to back up our intuition and I am pleased to talk about that today.
     Under a study, partially funded by EPA, the Council for Urban and Economic Development recently completed a review 107 brownfield sites from around the country.
     The numbers are in. And the are astounding.
     The entire reports runs several hundred pages. But let me pull out three important numbers for you.
     Number one: Revitalizing these sites created more than 8,300 construction jobs. And once the work was done, another 22,000 jobs were either created or retained.
     Number two: Much of this economic revitalization happened in areas that need it the most -- communities that tend to be lower income or minority neighborhoods. For instance, per capita incomes in neighborhoods surrounding these Brownfields averaged just over $10,000 a year, versus a national average of almost $14,500.
     With this program, we are bringing both environmental and economic justice to these neighborhoods.
     And finally, number three: The study revitalizing brownfields was a smart investment. For every $1 the federal, state and local governments put into revitalizing brownfields, $2.48 in private investment was attracted.
     That's almost a 150 percent return on investment. Now I don't know how your stock portfolio is doing, but I know there are not many places where you can get that kind of a financial return   and restore a community at the same time.
     And remember, when we work to rejuvenate these idle tracts or urban land, we are also taking the development pressure off of our forests, farm lands and other open spaces. And that's good for our economy and our environment.
     Let's look at the numbers.
     According to the American Farmland Trust, more than 30 million acres of farmland have been lost since 1970. Thirty million acres! I'd like to put that in perspective using Dan's home region as an example. That's like paving over, not just Stamford, not just Connecticut -- but almost all of New England.
     In the meantime, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, our cities, towns and urban centers are sitting on hundreds of thousands of acres of these brownfield sites. And they estimate that developing that land could bring in almost $1 billion to nearly $3 billion in tax revenue annually, create nearly 700,000 new jobs and take some of the development pressure off of our forests and farms.
     Given the kind of dramatic results the CUED report demonstrates   and the Conference of Mayors estimates   it's clear that not only do we need to do more -- but that we must do more. This is a wise investment in our communities, in our working families and in the environment.
     To help accomplish this, President Clinton and Vice President Gore   as part of their "Livability Agenda"   have proposed giving our states and communities a simple new tool to
help them manage growth: Better America Bonds.
     With Better America Bonds, states and local governments will be able to issue nearly $10 billion in bonds to clean up even more Brownfields, preserve open space, protect water quality--  or all those things together. It's very flexible.
     They will never pay a dime in interest and can wait 15 years before paying back the principal. This will save them more than 50 percent over what they would have paid with traditional tax-exempt bonds.
     Investors who buy the bonds receive federal tax credits equal to the interest they would have received on the bonds.
     Could it be any simpler?
     Bonding authority will be distributed directly to the communities through a competitive process. We'll run it like our Brownfields program -- a demonstrated success -- which has more than 300 communities across the nation leverage more than $1 billion to make these industrial sites productive again.
     Let me tell you what Better America Bonds is not. It is not a big government program. The federal government will not buy one square inch of land. All purchasing decisions will be made at the state or local level. We'll be encouraging regional -- not federal -- solutions. We're not sticking our nose where it doesn't belong. We're just lending a hand where it's needed.
     Now I'm often asked: Why propose this at all? Is this really a federal responsibility? Why not just leave it to the states and the local communities?
     This reports shows why. It shows that when the federal government works in partnership with state and local governments, and the private sector, we can accomplish great things.
      And the scope of this national problem dictates the sweep of the needed solution, because this kind of spiraling pattern of growth creates other problems as well.
     Beyond squandering a valuable resource -- our pristine open spaces -- this ever-outward growth has also made our commutes longer and more tedious. According to one study, drivers in the Virginia/DC metropolitan area waste about 82 hours a year stuck in traffic at a cost of nearly $1,300.
     Now I don't know about you, but if I had two weeks of free time and $1,300 in my pocket, I'd rather use them for a family vacation instead of lonely drives on crowded roads.
     Nationally, it is estimated that traffic congestion costs our economy $74 billion in lost time and wasted fuel. That's money up in smoke. How many schools could we have built? How many college educations could we have paid for?
     And there's an environmental cost to this as well. EPA estimates that all this extra driving will --- in 10 to 12 years -- overtake all the gains we have made in reducing tailpipe pollution over the past 30 years.
     To address this clean air problem, this Administration has proposed two new ideas.
     First, we are proposing to hold sport utility vehicles and light-duty trucks to the same national pollution standard as cars.
     Second, for the first time ever we are treating tailpipe emissions and gasoline as a single system. Not only will manufacturers build cleaner cars but refiners will be producing cleaner fuels that contains less sulfur.
     In developing these proposals, we worked with both the refining and the automotive industries.
     A great deal of flexibility is built into the proposal to give the automotive and refining sectors needed time to phase in the technologies that will bring about these reductions. The proposal also includes market mechanisms that reward manufacturers and refiners who meet these targets ahead of schedule.
     When these proposals are fully implemented, Americans will still be able to drive as much as they like in the vehicle of their choice.
     But we'll also have cut air pollution from cars and trucks by 80 percent of what they are today. Eighty percent! The affect is the same as if 166 million cars suddenly pulled off the road and parked.
     We don't need to choose between a high quality of life and clean air.
     But beyond all these environmental costs, beyond all these economic costs, there are also unintended   but very real -- social costs that come from the long commutes as we build farther and farther away from our city and town centers. We lose our sense of community -- of neighborhood.
     The opportunity for us to share in a rich civic life is most surely diminished when we only know our neighbors as someone we pass in the car late for work.
     I'm fortunate. I live in a community where parents still gather at night on sidewalks and porches to talk about our neighborhood, or how our kids are doing in schools, or just exchange conversation.
     But many families no longer know this joy.                  
     You know, at the dawn of this century, President Theodore Roosevelt   in many ways the founder of the environmental movement   set aside more than 230 million acres of land as sanctuaries, parks and nature reserves.
     And now as the century closes, we're starting to realize that we need to bring Roosevelt's idea closer to home. We are recognizing that preserving the environment is not simply about protecting a beautiful far away place we may visit on vacation.
     We are now realizing it is also about enhancing our communities -- the places where we live and raise our families.  We want more parks, more scenic trails, more riverfront walks where we can bike, skate or just stroll. We want shared places where we can gather with our neighbors.
     A new century is not just 74 days away. This Administration wants to ensure that all of our communities   some with centuries of history behind them   will thrive in the century to come.
     I just recently learned that the word brownfield is now included in the newest version of Webster's Dictionary. Five years ago, most people had never even heard of the word and now it's in the dictionary.
     But that gives you an idea how pervasive the problem has become.
     As this CUED report shows, this Administration's Brownfields program is one valuable tool our communities can use to help themselves make these idle lands productive again.
     And Better America Bonds could be another simple tool.
     I want to thank all the people at both the Council for Urban Economic Development and EPA who worked so hard putting this report together.
     I would like to thank the staff of NALGEP who worked so hard to bring us all together today.
     And I want to thank all of the representatives of the Showcase Communities for taking the time to come here as well.
     With this report, and your personal experiences, the evidence is overwhelming that we are on the right track but we must continue to work together.
     Remember, in the past we've looked at these brownfields and seen nothing but dark obstructions to progress. Now we know they are golden opportunities   opportunities for the environment, opportunities for the economy and opportunities for our families.
     It just doesn't get any better than that.
     Thank you.