Statement of Senator Carl Levin
Committee on and Public Works
Hearing on Smart Growth Legislation
March 6, 2002
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for holding today’s hearing on smart growth issues.
It is my honor to co-chair the Senate Smart Growth Task Force with Chairman Jeffords. We established this multi-regional bipartisan task force in 1999 to provide Senators with a forum to consider and coordinate efforts concerning sustainable growth patterns. The overall goal of the Task Force is to determine and promote ways the federal government can assist states and localities to address their own growth management issues. As part of that effort we have jointly sponsored and supported legislation that we believed would achieve this goal. Two of these bills are the focus of today’s hearing: The Brownfield Site Redevelopment Assistance Act of 2001 (S.1079); and The Community Character Act (S. 975).
Mr. Chairman, under your leadership I am hopeful that these two important community development bills can be enacted this year. They will provide states and communities with the tools they need to better plan for land use and development in order to improve the quality of life of our citizens.
Brownfields redevelopment is one of the most important ways to revitalize cities and implement growth management. The redevelopment of brownfields is a fiscally-sound way to bring investment back to neglected neighborhoods, clean up the environment, reuse infrastructure that is already paid for and relieve development pressure on our urban fringe and farmlands.
Under this Committee’s initiative and leadership, Congress recently took the important step of increasing funding for brownfields clean up and providing necessary liability relief by enacting H.R. 2869 (S.350) the Small Business Liability Protection and Brownfield Revitalization Act. That legislation will go a long way to help communities across the country start cleaning up and reusing the thousands of brownfields sites that now sit idle.
With THE big brownfields law enacted, it is tempting to think that we have solved the brownfields problem. But states, regional councils and local communities need financial assistance to make brownfields redevelopment happen. One way to do this is to give communities more tools to redevelop and promote the economic reuse of brownfield sites once they have been cleaned.
S. 1079, the Brownfield Site Redevelopment Assistance Act would do this. Senators Jeffords and I, along with Senators Baucus, Reid and Lieberman introduced this bill to expand the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) efforts to assist communities with economic development. The bill authorizes a program to provide targeted assistance for projects that redevelop brownfield sites. The bill will provide EDA with increased funding flexibility to help States, local communities, Indian tribes and nonprofit organizations restore these sites to productive use. The bill authorizes $60 million each year for five years for brownfields redevelopment. It gives EDA the authority to provide grants for brownfields redevelopment projects, including:
-- Development of public facilities
-- Business development (including revolving loan funds)
-- Technical assistance and Training
-- Activities to help communities diversify their economies and encourage infill development
-- Collaborative economic development planning
While EDA assistance has helped communities redevelop brownfields, the agency lacks a specific authority and a dedicated source of funding for brownfields. As a result, there is no guarantee that the agency will be able to sustain the level of investment it has made in recent years. The current “cap” on EDA appropriations at the authorization level of $335 million will significantly affect the ability of the agency to support future brownfield redevelopment activities.
This bill would provide EDA with the authority to facilitate effective economic development planning for reuse; develop infrastructure necessary to prepare sites for re-entry into the market; and, provide the capital necessary to support new business development. It would also make brownfields redevelopment a priority for EDA. Our nation’s population is growing and we need to find creative ways to accommodate growth while improving the lives of our residents and protecting our land, air and water. With limited Federal resources available to help communities with these important goals, it is critical that we encourage the reuse of our land. We recycle cans, bottles and newspaper B we must also recycle our land.
In communities across Michigan and across the country, the prevalence of brownfields sites is an obstacle to development. When redeveloped, these sites offer new opportunities for businesses, housing and green space. Undeveloped brownfields sites force expansion into green areas and open spaces, and many communities need support in order to reuse these sites. This bill would help to provide additional resources to communities and states to assist their brownfields conversion efforts.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors estimated that brownfields redevelopment could generate more than 550,000 jobs and up to $2.4 billion in new tax revenues. This legislation aims to support local communities and states in their efforts to reclaim brownfields by providing economic development resources to revitalize these sites.
Testimony to the critical need for this additional brownfields redevelopment funding is the support for the bill of the following organizations: National Association of Counties, National Association of Towns and Townships, National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors, the Council for Urban Economic Development; Enterprise Foundation, National Association of Business Incubators, National Association of Development Organizations, National Association of Installation Developers, National Association of Regional Councils, National Congress for Community Economic Development, and Smart Growth America.
I am pleased the Committee is taking up this legislation. It clearly complements the resources and liability clarifications enacted in H.R. 2869 (S. 350). It is a logical next step to provide communities with the financial assistance needed to leverage private investment in brownfields and accelerate reuse.
BROWNFIELD SITE REDEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE ACT OF 2001
Section 1 B Short Title
Brownfield Site Redevelopment Assistance Act of 2001
Section 2 B Purposes
To provide targeted assistance through the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration for projects that promote the redevelopment and economic recovery of brownfield sites in order to bring new income and private investment to distressed communities.
Section 3 B Definitions
Defines brownfield site (same definition as in the Small Business Liability Protection and Brownfield Revitalization Act). Permits the Secretary of Commerce in consultation with the EPA Administrator to include other pollutant or contaminants in the definition of brownfields. Other pollutants may include petroleum, lead and asbestos. EDA funding can current be used for remediation of these contaminants.
Section 4 B Coordination
Recommends that the Secretary of Commerce coordinate brownfields redevelopment activities with other Federal agencies, States, local governments, consortia of local governments, Indian tribes, nonprofit organizations and public-private partnerships.
Section 5 B Grants for Brownfield Site Redevelopment
Makes grants available through EDA for brownfields projects that alleviate excessive unemployment, underemployment, blight and infrastructure deterioration. Projects include: development of public facilities, development of public services, business development, planning, technical assistance and training. Grants may also be made available for activities identified by a community negatively impacted by brownfields. These activities include: diversifying the economy; carrying out industrial or commercial redevelopment projects; promoting smart growth through infill development that conserves environmental and agricultural resources; and carrying out collaborative economic development planning.
Section 6 B Authorization of Appropriations
Authorizes $60 million for each fiscal years 2002 through 2006.