This morning, as I do every morning, I rode on Amtrak from my home in Wilmington Delaware to Washington DC. I know, Governor Whitman, that you have passed through Wilmington on the train a few times, and that probably many of you here have done the same. Each time I ride the train, I look out the window as it pulls away and take a few minutes to marvel at the Wilmington Riverfront. Ten years ago, the view was significantly different.
As Delaware's Governor, I signed legislation aimed at revitalizing industrial brownfields. My administration worked closely with the Riverfront Development Corporation in Wilmington. They received $55 million to acquire, investigate, and redevelop sites, and partially as a result of their effort, 92 contaminated sites have been cleaned up and determined to no longer pose environmental threats to Delaware. We have drawn new investment to the city's waterfront, and we recently opened a new riverwalk connecting the train station to our baseball stadium. Shops, and restaurants are opening in a region some thought of as the worst in the city. Once a prime example of post-industrial urban blight, Wilmington's new waterfront has become a catalyst for 21st century urban renewal.
The benefits to Delaware from cleaning up and revitalizing brownfield sites are numerous, more than 500 jobs and 50 business created, increased tax revenues, 266 apartments for University of Delaware students, 3 new school sites, and several parks and recreational areas.
I am excited to be a co-sponsor of the bill introduced by Senators Chafee and Boxer, and I think it is a good start. As I rookie on this committee, I enter this debate a little late and I was not around last year while much of the work to develop this language went on, but I commend those who were at the table for their efforts. I would like to make a couple of points.
First, I support efforts to clean up and re-use brownfields and the discussion this bill generates will help us along. Second, I fully support the provisions that release prospective purchasers from liability for cleanup, and authorize funds for state and local brownfield cleanup programs. Let me also say that I am encouraged to see that the bill provides authority to states and local governments to conduct voluntary clean-up programs and authorizes funds needed to do so. This should not be an unfunded mandate. As a former governor, I want to make certain that as we move to strengthen the brownfields program, states and local governments are given the authority and flexibility to conduct effective brownfield programs. States and local governments must be able to assure property owners and prospective purchasers that they will not be held liable for mistakes that were not their fault, and encourage them to reuse these sites which are often in very desirable locations close to critical existing infrastructure. Each brownfield acre we can use downtown can prevent an acre of farmland from being developed.
Mr Chairman, there are two guiding philosophies, born of my eight years as a governor, that will guide me in my service to this committee and to the Senate. First, I believe the federal government should recognize the ability of state and local governments to make good, sound decisions and hold them accountable. We should not forget in Washington, DC, that the citizens and officials of states like Delaware, or California, or Rhode Island, live with the consequences of their decisions. We should help them to make good decisions for themselves before we make decisions for them.
Second rather than just dictating strict federal standards, the federal government should whenever possible strive to provide states the flexibility and support to meet those standards. In Delaware, I saw time and time again that when people were shown why a change or program was needed and given the flexibility to develop the mechanism to achieve that change, they developed effective programs - often using less time and less expense than if they had been forced to follow a government recipe. There are times flexibility is not appropriate, but in many cases, it may be the right thing to do.
When I was vice-chairman of the National Governors Association, our chair was my friend from Ohio, Governor Voinovich, who sits on this committee. Last year he introduced S. 2590, a bill that is similar in many ways to S. 350 and yet also incorporates elements that vest more responsibility and flexibility with state and local governments. As we move forward on this bill, I am interested in working with my friend from Ohio and with the chair and ranking member to see if we can incorporate some of the provisions of S. 2590 without upsetting the careful balance of support that S. 350 enjoys.
I know that the NGA has expressed support for some elements of Senator Chafee's bill, while also commending some of the provisions in Senator Voinovich's bill as well. In particular, they support its stronger language on the finality of a state's certification of a brownfield cleanup, and its prohibition of a site being included on the National Priority list without the concurrence of the governor of the state where the site is located. As I said, I think that S. 350 is a good start, and I support it's introduction. However, I think that just might be a few things we can do to make it even stronger, perhaps including a few of the provisions of the gentleman from Ohio. I haven't made up my mind however, and I look forward to today's discussion and will take it into consideration.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.