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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

U.S. Conference of Mayors

01/25/1996
  Carol M. Browner



Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


                    U.S. Conference of Mayors
                        Washington, D.C.





                         January 25, 1996





I want to thank Mayor Bosley for that introduction, and for his leadership as the chair of the Brownfields Task Force. I have just received a copy of your brownfields report describing the tremendous economic impact of brownfields on your cities. It is great to join Mayor Abramson again. I want to thank Mayor Savage for her work as the chair of the Environment and Energy Committee. And finally I want to thank your president, Mayor Rice, and your vice president, Mayor Daley, for their outstanding leadership of this very important body. I want to thank my colleagues Shelly Metzenbaum, Tim Fields, and their staff.

It is a pleasure to be able to join all of you who play such an important role in meeting the challenges that face this nation.

Tuesday night, we heard the President challenge all Americans to work together to seize the promise of our age of possibility -- in our families, in our communities, businesses, churches, schools, and in our government -- to meet the challenges we face together.

We heard the President challenge us to leave our environment safe and clean for the next generation.

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. The Clinton Administration has acted, together with many of you, to continue that proud history of progress.

We have expanded the public's right to know about toxic chemicals released in their neighborhoods, in your cities.

We have challenged business to find cheaper, more efficient ways to meet tough pollution standards.

We have worked with you to reduce air pollution. Under this Administration, 50 million more Americans in 55 cities today are breathing cleaner air -- air that meets public health standards.

And we have worked with you to clean up and redevelop the abandoned and contaminated property that lies idle in communities across this country.

We have worked to address the needs about which the mayors of this country have spoken so eloquently -- the urgent needs of communities where abandoned sites sit vacant and boarded up, denying opportunities for economic growth, jobs, and hope. Together, we have worked to bring new jobs, a new tax base, a new hope.

One year ago, here at the Conference of Mayors, I announced the Clinton Administration's Brownfields Action Agenda, an aggressive, ambitious program to revitalize our cities. I am very pleased to report that one year later, we are getting results that make economic sense -- environmental sense -- and common sense in cities across this country.

You told me that to get urban communities back on their feet, you needed help in attracting investors, involving local community residents, and getting economic development moving.

I am very pleased to tell you that we have funded brownfields pilot projects in 40 cities. This morning we announced the latest round of awards -- money you can use to promote economic development in the way you decide is best -- by bringing together people who live near contaminated land, businesses that want to get that land cleaned up, investors, lenders, developers, citizens.

Already, in Cleveland, where one of our pilot projects is located, we have seen an increase of $3.5 million in private investment, a $1 million increase in the local tax base, and more than 170 new jobs.

You told me that community residents want to be trained and hired to clean up contaminated properties and make them safe for redevelopment. Community colleges are working with us to provide that training.

You told me the Superfund inventory -- the master list, the CERCLIS list -- had become a barrier to redevelopment -- even after the contamination had been cleaned up -- or even if there had never been any contamination in the first place -- because once a site was on the list there was no way to get off. The stigma of merely being placed on the master list was enduring. It was like a bad credit rating that never goes away.

Last year, I announced we were removing from the Superfund inventory nearly 24,000 sites, lifting the stigma. And today, I am pleased to announce that we will be removing another 3,300 sites by February 15, for a total of 27,000 sites -- clearing the way for you to move forward with redevelopment.

You told me that Superfund liability rules were getting in the way of redevelopment in urban communities, with lenders afraid to lend, prospective purchasers afraid to purchase, developers afraid to develop.

In response, we have issued new rules on lender liability and prospective purchasers -- to take out of the liability net those parties who just do not belong there.

You told me that city governments were getting caught in the liability net. We have issued guidance to limit liability in cases where cities involuntarily acquire contaminated property.

You told me that we needed new guidance to ensure that the future use of the property is taken into account when the cleanup plan is drawn up -- land that will be used to build a factory calls for a different cleanup plan than land to be used as a playground. We agree and we have issued guidance to that effect.

Finally, 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.

Together, we have made progress. And we look forward to continuing to work together, to bring new jobs and new hope to communities across this country.

If we are to continue to move forward, we need to accept the challenge President Clinton spoke of Tuesday night. We need to reaffirm the bipartisan commitment to protecting public health and our environment that has served this country for 25 years.

During the past three years, this Administration has accelerated the cleanup of toxic waste sites -- completing more cleanups in just three years than in the previous 12 years of the Superfund program. We must continue that progress.

You know as well as I do that we need a strong, effective Superfund program to continue our progress in cleaning up the most serious toxic waste dumps. We must continue to ensure that polluters pay to clean up the pollution they have caused.

We have adopted a series of administrative changes -- three rounds now -- each designed to do the job faster, fairer, and more efficiently. In each instance these administrative changes and reforms could be more directly achieved through Congressional action. We are committed to comprehensive bipartisan Congressional reform of the Superfund law. We are ready and willing to work with Democrats and Republicans alike to achieve that goal.

President Clinton's balanced budget plan will allow us to continue the progress of the past 25 years. With the President's leadership, we can balance the budget and achieve a safe, clean environment for ourselves and for our children.

Let us continue to work together toward the goals that we hold in common. Let us protect our health, our neighborhoods, our cities, our economy -- and to do it using common-sense, cost-effective measures -- so that all of us and our children and our grandchildren can enjoy a healthy and a prosperous life.

Thank you.