The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines Brownfields as “abandoned, idled or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.” In a broader sense, Brownfields may be any property where actual or suspected contamination impairs the property value.
Since its inception in 1995, the EPA’s Brownfields Program has changed the way contaminated property is perceived, addressed and managed. Through a results-oriented design, the EPA empowers states, communities and other economic development stakeholders to actively identify, assess, remediate, and sustainably redevelop sites within their regions. In addition to improving and protecting the environment, these investments have resulted in increased tax bases, job growth, and decreased development pressure on existing infrastructure and open land.
Initially, EPA provided small amounts of seed money to local governments, launching hundreds of two-year brownfield “pilot” projects. The policies developed by the EPA through this program resulted in the passage of the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act in January 2002. The Act enabled the EPA to further expand its assistance programs, providing a variety of new tools for public and private entities interested in site reuse.
Grants continue to serve as the foundation of EPA’s Brownfields Program. Funding types include:
Among its many accomplishments, EPA’s Brownfields Program has resulted in more than $6.5 billion in remediation and redevelopment funding leveraged from the private and public sectors and the creation of over 25,000 new jobs. The momentum generated by the Program will leave an enduring legacy, but, with more than 450,000 (est.) Brownfields sites in the U.S., a great deal of work remains. EPA’s Brownfields Program continues to look to the future by expanding the types of properties it addresses, forming new partnerships, and undertaking new initiatives to help revitalize communities across the nation.