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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Brownfields 98 Los Angeles, CA

11/16/1998
Carol M. Browner, Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
Remarks Prepared for Delivery
 
                       Brownfields  98
                        Los Angeles, CA
                       November 16, 1998
                               

     Thank you Mayor Riordan. Thank you for hosting this event -- and for all that you are doing to renew and revitalize the great city of Los Angeles. It's entirely appropriate that we hold this event here -- because what you are doing for brownfields -- bringing business and
communities together from the very start -- proves one of the basic tenets of all our efforts: through partnership we can protect both people and prosperity, our health and our economy. I salute your leadership.

     Everyone, welcome to Brownfields  98!

     Let me try something new today -- and bear with me, please.

     Will the mayors in this crowd please stand and remain standing. The community activists and representatives from nongovernmental organizations -- please stand. Those from financial institutions -- the lenders. Real estate developers -- please stand. Government officials -- local, state, federal. Those in industry, or in the business community. Is there anyone I've missed -- please stand, too.

     Look around you. We have more than 2,000 people here today -- mayors, community activists, environmentalists, developers, bankers, entrepreneurs, officials from all levels of
government -- and we're all working together toward a common vision: clean, safe, healthy, thriving communities across America.

     We've come a long way together. Our efforts have been tremendously successful. In just three short years, 226 brownfields pilots projects across the country bringing new life, new energy, new hope to our nation's cities!

    And all of our progress is thanks to you, caring enough to build the partnerships that are getting the job done. Please join me in a heartfelt applause for you and your partners in brownfields redevelopment!

     Thank you. You can be seated.

     Do you remember those early days -- the tens of thousands of abandoned, contaminated properties that held back our inner cities? The situation was grim. Shells of buildings boarded up. Old parking lots, cracked and choking with weeds. Chain link fences with signs warning, danger, keep out, toxic waste. There was little hope then. No plan for renewal. No strategy for change.

     But when the Clinton/Gore Administration came to office, we heard your call. The mayors of the Rust Belt, the developers frustrated by unnecessary regulations, the communities that had a vision of something new and better replacing the decay and neglect that was holding back their neighborhoods.

     Under the President's and Vice President's leadership, we took away the roadblocks -- removing tens of thousands of sites from the Superfund priorities list that didn't pose a significant risk to public health and the environment. This simple action opened the floodgate to cleanup and new productive use of these properties.

     Our first partnership was born then -- a small grant from EPA to Cuyahoga County in Ohio. The results exceeded our wildest imaginations -- more than 180 permanent jobs, more than a $1 million boost to the tax base, greenfields spared from bulldozers.

     Today, those great successes in Ohio seem almost modest.

     Since we began the brownfields program three short years ago, we have leveraged more than $1 billion in private funds. We have created more than 2,000 jobs, with tens of thousands more expected. And every single dollar raised, every single acre redeveloped, every single job created has been the direct result of partnership -- all of you here today working together to renew our cities.

     Yes, we have made great strides. But we know our work is not done. Just last month, Congress passed the funds President Clinton requested for our brownfields redevelopment program -- and I have some great news.

     We have $91 million for brownfields redevelopment. This means more money for evaluating brownfields for cleanup -- to identify and prioritize problem sites.

     We have more money for cleanup plans -- to develop the most common-sense, cost-effective strategy for turning these brownfields around.     We have more money for job training -- to create a workforce skilled in all aspects of cleanup and redevelopment.

     And this year, the Congress moved on a provision long-sought by this administration --  new money for actual cleanups -- $35 million.

     This is enough to establish more than 60 new low-interest brownfields cleanup revolving loan funds around the country.  That's up to $500,000 for communities that have assessed their brownfields problem, created a restoration plan, and are now ready for cleanup.

     Any city with an EPA brownfields pilot project is eligible for these funds.

     It's a huge opportunity.

     First, these funds will leverage private development dollars -- a critical part of any city's efforts to see a brownfields redevelopment through from cleanup to productive reuse.

     Second, the loan funds provide a continuous source of redevelopment money. When the loans are repaid, the money goes back into a pot from which developers can draw again and again. When you add in private dollars and other funding sources, these loan funds can be a significant source of money for investments in brownfields revitalization.

     And finally, because these funds will be targeted where redevelopment dollars have been hard to come by -- the revolving loan fund will help cities overcome significant funding obstacles.

     The revolving loan fund program is common sense. It's cost effective. It's even more proof that the health of our economy and the health of our environment go hand in hand -- that one does not have to come at the cost of the other.

     But let me say that no amount of money, no amount of development dollars are going to bring back our cities if we do not continue working together, building partnerships to find the innovative solutions to urban renewal.

     We in the federal government learned this early on. We heard from you, the county managers, and city and community leaders across the country, that while EPA excelled at our local partnerships, we had been neglecting our federal partnerships. The piecemeal nature of federal assistance was not always helping -- in fact, it was sometimes hindering -- your efforts to revitalize your communities.

    That is why we initiated the National Brownfields Partnership, to rally the federal family. When we started talking -- EPA, HUD, Transportation, Labor, altogether 20 federal agencies -- we found we could put together exciting models of cooperation. We could do a better job for you if we pooled our time, resources, our staff talent.

     As many of you know, this year, Vice President Gore announced 16 brownfields showcase communities across America -- models of federal cooperation and collaboration for brownfields redevelopment.

     These communities are our best efforts to use the full force of the federal government to provide communities with the resources and expertise they need to clean up and redevelop brownfields.

     This is about federal agencies working together to bring about real change -- the single, largest federal commitment to the clean up and redevelopment of brownfields -- tens of millions of dollars in financial and technical support -- resources to build partnerships and get the job done.

     I visited one of these Showcase communities in South Florida -- the Eastward Ho! community which spans three counties with more than 2,000 contaminated sites. We chose Eastward Ho! as a showcase community because it already had demonstrated the tremendous power of partnership.

     Local, state, regional, and federal government agencies, as well as public, private, and non-profit community organizations have been working together -- in a spirit of cooperation and vision that has already leveraged $6 million in public and private funds for the redevelopment of this area.

     I cannot begin to mention all the many, many wonderful working partnerships that are making this explosion of renewal possible in America.

     Lenders are working with developers, mayors, and communities. In California -- because of Bank of America financing --  a new commercial warehouse now occupies an old, abandoned auto salvage yard. A mini-storage facility has been built on a cleaned up railyard. A vacant industrial facility has been reborn into residential housing.

     In Connecticut, Chase Manhattan Bank, Peoples Bank, and CitiBank are sharing Mayor Ganim's hope for Bridgeport's future in Connecticut. Together, these banks have invested in a revolving loan fund to finance the revitalization of the city's abandoned industrial properties.

     In Dallas, Nations Bank, Bank One, Comerica Bank and others have helped finance the phenomenal comeback of that city's brownfields.     Community activists are also taking the lead. In Trenton, a community group stopped illegal dumping at a site in the inner city   and with an EPA seed grant, activists worked to leverage $30,000 from the state to purchase and begin cleanup and redevelopment.

     In Birmingham, Alabama, the community set up an environmental clearinghouse which already has led to the transformation of an abandoned property into an industrial park for heavy industry, new businesses, and a full-scale retail center. Planners expect 2,000 new jobs from this new site   all because neighborhoods, community groups are working with private interests and the government to bring new hope, new life back to their communities.

     The states, every step of the way, are providing resources, technical expertise, and new innovative programs to turn the blight of brownfields into a plus for their residents. Minnesota has been working with the Ryan Development Company on revitalizing brownfields even before brownfields had a name. One project transformed an old trucking hub into a new business park that provides 1,000 jobs and more than an $800,000 boost to the local tax base every year.

     And the mayors! Take Mayor Kirk of Dallas.  His city's $200,000 grant from EPA leveraged nearly $54 million in public and private redevelopment dollars.

     Or, check with Joe Ganim of Bridgeport.  Mayor Ganim's vision for his city has led to the cleanup and redevelopment of more than 120 acres of brownfields -- and created hundreds of new jobs for Bridgeport's citizens.

      In Emeryville, California, Mayor Bukowski has leveraged more than $650 million in public and private funds. Today, more than 180 acres of the city's brownfields are getting a new lease on life.

     The stories go on and on.

     Kalamazoo has a new bakery. Bridgeport, a new stadium. Buffalo, an old steel site now producing 80,000 pounds of hydroponic tomatoes every week.

     Supermarkets, health-care facilities, sorely needed housing, medical centers, new businesses and industries   now rise from where those shells of boarded buildings once stood, where weeds once grew.

     In the days ahead, you have the opportunity to talk to one another, share ideas -- and build even more partnerships that will make a difference for America.

     Let's keep our efforts going. Let's keep them growing. Let's continue our good work together. Again, I applaud you.

     Thank you.      And now I'd like to introduce someone who personifies the spirit of brownfields redevelopment -- that environmental and public health protection and economic growth go hand in hand -- William Ruckelshaus.  In 1970, he became the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and then came back for a second time 13 years later. He championed the passage of our nation's first major environmental laws -- the foundation of our work today. He set tough standards to protect our air, water, and land. Bill Ruckelshaus left a fine legacy at EPA -- a legacy that I was proud to inherit.

     Before and after and inbetween all those years at EPA, Bill worked in private practice as a lawyer, a representative in the Indiana House of Representatives, and in many, many positions in some of the nation's largest companies -- Weyerhaeuser, Browning Ferris, Monsanto, Solutia, and more.

     All this wealth and breadth of experience embodied in one person! Wherever he has served, Bill Ruckelshaus has been a man of vision, integrity, and principle. And he understands that progress in this country hinges on people working together to bring America forward --  healthy economy, healthy environment, healthy people for the 21st Century. Bill...