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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Brownfields Pilots National Workshop

02/14/1996
Carol M. Browner



Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Pilots National Workshop


                         Washington, D.C.




                        February 14, 1996





I want to thank Elliott Laws for all he has done to develop the Brownfields Action Agenda that is doing so much to help our communities.

I am glad to be here with my colleagues from EPA and from other federal agencies -- and our partners in state and local government -- who are working together to help clean up and redevelop our cities.

And finally, it is a pleasure to be here with all of you who have come to share with us the exciting work you are doing.

Last month, in President Clinton's State of the Union address, he highlighted the importance of leaving our environment safe and clean for the next generation and to clean up abandoned industrial property, bringing jobs to the places that need them. That's exactly what we're doing.

One year ago, at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I was proud to announce the Clinton Administration's Brownfields Action Agenda. One year later, I am very pleased to report results that make economic sense -- environmental sense -- and common sense in cities across this country.

Through the Brownfields Action Agenda, we have removed 27,000 sites from the Superfund master list, lifting the stigma and clearing the way for redevelopment in community after community.

We have already removed 12,000 small parties from the liability trap, and by the end of this year we will remove at least another 10,000. We have new policies in effect making it crystal clear that -- if you are a municipality that involuntarily acquires contaminated property, if you are a lender or a prospective purchaser who is not responsible for pollution at the site -- you will not get caught up in the liability net.

We guarantee that the future use of the property will be taken into account when designing the cleanup plan. If the property is going to be used for a factory, you need one kind of cleanup plan. If it's going to be a playground, you need a different kind of plan. That makes environmental sense, it makes economic sense, and it's just plain common sense.

In his State of the Union address, President Clinton announced an additional, important effort -- to help communities clean up old waste sites by providing targeted tax incentives to those who purchase and clean up these sites.

And finally, of course, what brings us here today -- our pilot projects, the centerpiece of our brownfields initiative -- awards that communities can use to promote economic development the way you believe it will work the best. You have the ideas. You can bring together the people who live near abandoned properties, businesses that want that land cleaned up, investors, lenders, job trainers, developers.

I had the privilege of visiting one of our first brownfields projects, in Richmond, Virginia. I will never forget walking through a building that had once lain idle and abandoned -- a dangerous eyesore. Now it holds the promise of becoming a busy, bustling place of business, full of new jobs, new economic activity, new life for that community.

Now the same thing is happening all over this country. You're hearing the good news right here from one another -- about community involvement, environmental justice, reducing health risks, sustainable redevelopment, and jobs.

The Cleveland pilot project has resulted in $3.2 million in new private investment, a $1 million increase in the local tax base, and more than 170 new jobs.

We have a clean, new, high-tech business being built on a former Republic Steel site -- a hydroponic tomato farm bringing 300 new jobs to Buffalo, New York.

We have a supermarket chain committed to invest in a former gas works property in Maine. A waterfront development plan in California. A brownfields Internet system in Oregon. Industrial parks. Groundwater cleanup. A revolving loan fund. These are just a few of the successes -- smart ideas and exciting activities that are full of economic promise. Together, we are creating environmental renewal, new jobs, a new tax base, a new hope.

But if we are to continue to move forward -- if we are to continue bringing environmental renewal and economic revitalization to our communities -- we need Congress to act. We need Congress to fix the Superfund law.

In sixteen years, Superfund has protected millions of Americans from serious health risks. Toxic waste has been removed from 2700 sites. And Superfund has prevented untold amounts of future pollution, by encouraging companies to deal responsibly with hazardous waste.

The Clinton Administration has taken aggressive action to make Superfund work faster, fairer, and more efficiently, to clean up these contaminated sites and return them to productive community use. We have completed more cleanups in just three years than were completed in the previous 12 years of the Superfund program. Today's Superfund program is fundamentally different from what it was several years ago.

But there is a limit to what we can do administratively. We need a new law to complete the reforms we have begun and clean up the remaining sites quickly and effectively -- a responsible new law that will promote economic redevelopment and protect human health and the environment now and into the future.

A law that will continue to speed the pace and lower the cost of cleanups.

A law that will continue to hold polluters accountable for the damage they have done, while freeing small parties from unfair liability.

A law that protects groundwater -- the source of drinking water for half of all Americans.

A law that continues to bring environmental renewal and economic revitalization to our communities.

With a new Superfund law, the liability reforms, the assurances for lenders and developers -- all the new policies that we have put forward to support your work on brownfields -- will work more easily, more smoothly, more quickly. A responsible new law will help all of us.

Two years ago, the Clinton Administration forged a consensus Superfund bill that was supported by Democrats, Republicans -- everyone from the Chemical Manufacturers Association to the Sierra Club. We stand ready to work with all who share our commitment to a Superfund program that will get the job done faster, fairer, more efficiently, and that looks to those who caused the biggest problems to pay their fair share.

During the past few months of stops and starts and temporary funding, EPA was forced to stop cleanups at sites across the country. The 1996 budget that Republican leaders have proposed for EPA would continue the delays and cut toxic waste cleanups by 26They would cut environmental enforcement, standard-setting, and funding to help communities protect drinking water and keep raw sewage out of rivers and off beaches. These cuts are not acceptable. They will not allow us to do the job of public health and environmental protection for the American people.

We cannot accept -- as some in Congress would have us do -- a solution that says to communities: "No, we won't clean up that site. We'll put a fence around it instead; we'll post guard dogs on the property; we'll give you bottled water if you're worried about contaminated groundwater." This is no solution for our communities today. And we cannot accept passing on a legacy of contaminated land and water to our children.

Twenty-five years ago, the people of this country -- Democrats, Republicans, and independents, joined together to say: "We must stop the pollution. We must save our natural heritage."

For 25 years, Americans have worked together in a bipartisan effort to protect our health and our communities by protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land on which we live -- and we have made great progress.

A clean environment. Safer streets. Strong families. Strong communities. These are the values that we as Americans hold dear. Let us continue to work together to protect our health, our neighborhoods, our cities, our economy -- so that all of us and our children and our grandchildren can enjoy a healthy and a prosperous life. Together, we can meet any challenge, achieve any goal.

Thank you.