Within the Conference of Mayors, I now serve as a Member of the organization's Advisory Board, and I am a co-chair of the Brownfields Task Force.
Mr.Chairman, let me first express the appreciation of the nation's mayors to you, members of this Subcommittee, and Chairman Smith and Ranking Minority Member Reid for your leadership in introducing S. 350 and for making this legislation a priority in the Senate.
We are pleased to appear here this morning to convey our strong support for S. 350 and to appeal to you to act promptly on this bipartisan legislation.
There is an opportunity to move this legislation forward and finally secure the many benefits of recycling brownfields all across this nation.
This Committee has previously sought testimony from the Conference and others involved in brownfields redevelopment and related issues. As such, I would like to simply add to this record by focusing my remarks on a couple of key areas.
Conference of Mayors' Support for S. 350
Prior to introduction of S. 350, Conference President and Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles wrote to you, Mr. Chairman, Committee Chairman Smith and Senators Reid and Boxer to convey the Conference's strong support for this legislation.
This weekend, the Conference's top leaders met to review the top legislative priorities for this Congress, further emphasizing S. 350 as one of the top priorities for the nation's mayors. We also had the opportunity to meet and discuss the need for action on S. 350 with senior Bush Administration officials.
The mayors are excited about your plans to move promptly on this priority legislation. We believe S. 350 provides the new Congress with a unique opportunity to make vital policy changes and deliver much needed resources directly to cities and other local areas in support of the many public and private efforts to reclaim brownfields all across this nation.
We also believe that is most appropriate for this Committee and the Senate to place particularly priority on S. 350, the same legislation that had garnered 67 Senate cosponsors in the 106th Congress. Mr. Chairman, I would also like to emphasize that this legislation enjoys broad support among the mayors and other public and business parties.
Mr. Chairman, let me again share some of the findings of the Conference's studies on the scope of the brownfields problem before this nation to underscore the need for action on this important legislation.
Our survey work clearly shows that brownfields is a national problem and one of significant proportion. Mr. Chairman, one most recent report, Third National Report on Brownfields Redevelopment, was issued last year and is already part of this Committee's record.
First, let me summarize some of the key findings -
* 210 cities estimated that they had more than 21,000 brownfield sites; these sites consumed more than 81,000 acres of land.
* Brownfields are also not just a "big" city problem; more than six out of ten respondents from cities with less than 100,000 people.
We found the obstacles to redevelopment are the same for the third consecutive year -
* The number one obstacle was the need for local cleanup funds to bring these properties back into productive use, with 90% of the respondents indicating that cleanup funds were needed.
* The second more common impediment issue was dealing with the issue of liability, followed by the need for more environmental assessments to determine the type and extent of the contamination.
And, we also quantified the benefits of redeveloping these sites, underscoring why mayors have been so vocal in advocating support for new federal policies to assist communities -
* Let's talk money first. Three-fourths of the survey respondents (about 178) estimated that if their brownfields were redeveloped, they would realize between $902 million to $2.4 billion in annual tax revenues.
* The second most frequently identified benefit was creating more jobs, with 190 cities estimated that over 587,000 jobs could be created if their brownfield sites were redeveloped.
When you examine the key features of S. 350, you can see how this legislation responds directly to what communities have told us they need to further their efforts to recycle these properties.
And, we know that these efforts to reclaim brownfields have broader implications for other national concerns. For some time, mayors and others have been calling attention to the potential of brownfields as one of the most viable options in the short term in addressing issues related to sprawl, including loss of farmland and open space. The legislation before you will help reverse some of the bias toward the development of pristine land resources as our first choice.
One of the very interesting findings came from survey respondents who were to quantify how many people their communities could absorb without adding appreciably to their existing infrastructure.
* 118 cities estimated they could support an additional 5.8 million people, a capacity that is nearly equivalent to the population of Los Angeles and Chicago.
This capacity is more than two years of U.S. population growth.
Mr. Chairman, we believe this and other research helps to underscore the need for a broader federal effort in this area, with S. 350 responding directly to identified local needs.
Key Issues in S. 350
Mr. Chairman, S. 350 takes the next step by putting place federal policy in line with local and states efforts to get these sites cleaned up and returned to productive use. I want to just emphasize a couple of key points in this regard. First, we have gone as far as we can with the ongoing administrative efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Specific statutory changes are needed now to deal with the many liability concerns and constraints affecting the use of existing federal resources.
I want to recognize Members of this Committee, particularly Senator Bond and others who have worked to secure resources for local brownfield efforts in advance of final legislative action by this Committee and the Congress. I also want to acknowledge the many efforts by the previous Administration for their work on policy reforms and other initiatives in support of our brownfield efforts. But despite these Congressional and administrative efforts, we believe that as a nation we have not made progress at a rate that is substantial enough given the substantial potential benefits for communities and the nation in moving our efforts to the next level.
Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to note that many of the issues that we had previously raised in testimony before this Committee are reflected in provisions of S. 350. The pending proposal provides the opportunity for cities and other local governments to receive funding for their programs directly. It provides these resources for both assessments and cleanups. S. 350 deals with many of the liability reforms that should stimulate increased private participation in cleaning up and redeveloping these sites. It also provides resources directly to states to strengthen existing state cleanup program efforts, making available resources to the states for these important programs.
Mr. Chairman and Members of this Committee, the nation's mayors believe that the time has come for bipartisan action on brownfields. We have waited a long time for final Congressional action on brownfields legislation and we are excited that S. 350 is scheduled for immediate action by this Committee. This is a carefully crafted legislative package that provides a very strong foundation for an expanded commitment to recycling America's land. In moving forward with S. 350, you can count on the strong and continuing support of the nation's mayors.
On behalf of The United States Conference of Mayors, I thank you for this opportunity to share the views of the nation's mayors on these important issues.