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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Brownfields 2000 Conference Atlantic City, N.J.

10/10/2000
Carol M. Browner, Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency

Oral Remarks Prepared for Delivery
Brownfields 2000 Conference
Atlantic City, N.J.
October 10, 2000

Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be here at the Brownfields 2000 conference.

I want to thank Tim for that introduction.

You know, Isaac Newton once said: “If I have been able to see further it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants.”

When it comes to Brownfields redevelopment, Tim Fields, Linda Karzinski and their colleagues are among my environmental giants. Starting with a single experiment in 1993, they have built a Brownfields program that now encompasses more than 500 sites and is at work in every state of the union and a growing number of tribal lands.

It’s amazing when you think about it. As the 1990s began, most people had never heard the word Brownfield. It didn’t even appear in Webster’s Dictionary. Well, it does today. Look it up.

But, you know, that is just one example of how far we have come in such a short time. This morning, before I came to Atlantic City, I appeared on behalf of Tim, the Brownfields Program and EPA before the judges of the Kennedy School of Government’s Innovations in Government Awards Committee.

Our Brownfields program – and I stress our program, because everyone in this room is a partner in our success – is in the final round of programs for the school’s prestigious excellence in government innovation award.

Let me tell you something. This competition is as tough as any.

First, there were over 1600 applicants. Following a grueling selection process, 25 semi-finalists were selected. It is a tremendous honor for the program to have made it this far.

Helping me with this morning’s presentation was Dwayne Jones, director of the Young Community Developers in San Francisco. Dwayne used an EPA Brownfields grant to develop a local job-training program that teaches the underemployed and the unemployed new high-wage skills in the environmental clean-up industry.

Some of Dwayne’s students are now making over $33 an hour and are finally able to provide health care for their children.

In fact, Dwayne’s biggest problem is that his students are in such demand, industry is trying to sign them up before they’ve even graduated.

Dwayne, thank you for your help this morning. It was an excellent presentation. But most importantly, thank you for the work you do each and every day.

Preparing for the presentation gave me a chance to think about what makes the Brownfields program so unique and innovative.

And the answer was simple. EPA’s Brownfields program, at its core, is about people. It’s about revitalizing their communities... creating quality jobs that guarantee their futures. It’s about creating safe, healthy neighborhoods for families.

And it’s about making government work better for people.

In my experience, one of the greatest challenges for government is to recognize when a successful law brings unintended consequences to the communities it was meant to protect. Superfund is an example.

Cities across the country told EPA that thousands of abandoned industrial sites were being left fallow because business and government feared Superfund liability. As a result, neighborhoods were deteriorating and jobs were being lost.

We listened. Going by the book, there was nothing we could do. So we wrote a new book. And without creating a single new law . . . or a single new rule . . .

This program has given our states, local governments and communities the flexible tools they need to solve their problems on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood, job-by-job basis.

It began in Cleveland in 1993 with a site-assessment grant to determine the level of contamination at an abandoned, industrial site. We found that many of these sites were so lightly contaminated that we could assure the business and financial communities and local governments that they would face no Superfund liability by putting these sites back to productive use. That was only a start.

Communities next told us that the capital to clean up and develop the sites was in short supply. We responded by establishing the Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund, that provides up to $500,000 in grants to governments, who in turn loan the money to private business willing to redevelop these properties.

Communities next told us they needed better coordination among all the federal agencies. In response, we formed the federal Brownfields Partnership – a coalition of 22 federal agencies working hand-in-hand with local communities.

As these projects moved forward, we learned that skilled environmental professionals were lacking to perform cleanup. In fact, workers had to be brought into cities to respond to the demand. The solution was to train local unemployed and underemployed residents and give them with the skills they needed to help revitalize their own communities while also developing quality careers.

What are the results? The numbers speak for themselves.

An independent study of 107 Brownfields sites found the projects created 8,300 construction jobs -- and created or retained another 22,000 jobs once the work was finished.

For every $1 invested in public money, $2.48 was leveraged from the private sector. EPA’s investment alone has resulted in $2.3 billion in private investment.

EPA’s 36 Job Training Pilots programs have 516 graduates, the majority of whom are already placed in quality jobs that can pay over $30 an hour and offer health care.

Much of this economic revitalization is happening in areas that need it most. In many of these Brownfields communities, the average yearly per capita income is just $10,000.

All of these numbers represent progress for real people.

In 1993, none of us at EPA could have imagined that we would expand a modest program from simple site assessment, to harnessing market forces, to providing financial capital, to building valuable job skills, to coordinating an unprecedented government-wide program. All without one new law . . . one new regulation.

And we’re still moving forward. The 200,000 abandoned gas stations around the nation are our next target. In the next month, we will be forming a new partnership with states to address these contaminated areas, which have not been cleaned up and developed because -- once again -- of the fear of liability.

And it doesn’t end with the Brownfield’s program. It continues with EPA programs such as air. You’ll hear a report from the mayor’s today about how clean air and brownfields go hand in hand – a very important lesson.

And what we learned at EPA from Brownfields we applied to the air programs when we devised our new Tier II rules -- namely – that you have to look at the whole problem.

That is why we came up with new rules that begin at the refinery and run right through the tailpipe.

When we finalize our rule to reduce pollution from heavy-duty diesel engines and fuels later this year, we will have completed a package of reforms that -- for the first time ever -- will result in cleaner engines and fuels for just about everything on wheels -- from cars and SUVs to heavy diesel trucks and buses.

Not only will manufacturers build even cleaner cars, but for the first time, sport utility vehicles and light-duty trucks will be held to the same national pollution standard as automobiles.

On top of that, refiners will be producing cleaner fuels that contain less sulfur for gasoline and diesel.

We are meeting challenge after challenge . . . embracing each new opportunity . . . and making government work better to protect public health and the environment.

Today we are announcing more progress.

The centerpieces of the Brownfields National Partnership are the Showcase Communities. Two years ago we named 16 Showcases. And they can already point to more than $900 million in leveraged cleanup and economic redevelopment.

Today, I am pleased to announce, on behalf of the National Partnership, 12 new Showcase Communities. They span the country from the rustbelt to the sunbelt, ranging in size from major cities to small villages.

The new communities are: Mystic Valley Development Corporation of Malden, Medford and Everett, Massachusetts; New Bedford, Massachusetts; Niagara Falls Region, New York; Cape Charles, Virginia; Jackson, Mississippi; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Houston, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; St. Louis/East St. Louis, Missouri; Denver, Colorado; Gila River Indian Community, Arizona; and the Metlakatla Indian Community, Alaska.

Each new Showcase will receive $200,000 for environmental assessment and the loan of a Federal employee for two years.

But the true value of the designation will be felt as the Showcase Community leaders work collaboratively with a wide range of Federal, State and local programs to deliver brownfields help in a coordinated way. And developing models for the rest of the country at the same time.

My congratulations to the new Showcase Communities and the local leaders who made it happen.

And – again – my congratulations to all of you here today – the community leaders . . . the government leaders . . . the business leaders . . . who have made it your mission to make this Brownfields program a success.

Not even a decade ago, we looked at brownfields as obstructions to be avoided. Now we see opportunities – opportunities for the environment, opportunities for the economy and opportunities for our families.

While it would be nice to win that award from the Kennedy School of Government, together we have built a legacy that is larger than any trophy . . . more meaningful than any plaque.

Without a single new law . . . a single new regulation . . . we have worked in partnership to create new jobs, revitalize old neighborhoods and bring hope to the communities that need it the most.

Now that . . . THAT . . . is a trophy we can all be proud to share. Thank you.