Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks from the committee hearing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled, “Stakeholder Views on the Brownfields Program Reauthorization.” The hearing featured testimony from multiple witnesses, including George Carico, director of the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center at Marshall University.

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).

“Thank you, Chairman Carper, and I want to thank you for holding the hearing today to talk about EPA’s Brownfields program.

“I want to thank all of our witness for being here with us today.

“It’s a rare occasion when an EPA program enjoys strong bipartisan support along this committee’s dais, as we know.

“Since first being authorized in 2002, the Brownfields program has become a resounding success story for our economy and the environment.

“And since were on the east coast and developed a lot earlier, we have a lot of these older sites in both of our states.

“Brownfields are pieces of property where redevelopment is complicated by the presence of hazardous contamination.

“A large variety of contaminated properties are potential Brownfield sites.

“Common examples are abandoned factories, landfills, and former gas stations and dry cleaners. We had an issue with a dry cleaner, actually, in our state.

“These underdeveloped properties line the streets of once, were then bustling industrial, commercial, and agricultural areas across our nation, discouraging investment and job creation, reducing local tax revenues, and harming property values.

“Rather than viewing these properties as a stain on our community, the Brownfields program recognizes the vast untapped economic potential these contaminated sites can…after they have been successfully remediated.

“Since the program’s inception, $36 billion in Brownfields grant funding has been allocated to local communities, creating about 192,000 jobs.

“In addition, EPA’s Brownfields program is one of the most effectively leveraged financing tool across the entire federal government, providing a return of more than $20 for every dollar contributed by the EPA.

“Brownfields grants serve as a valuable financing tool for local communities and private investors by providing reliable funding and facilitating long-term reuse planning.

“The grants help incentivize private sector participation by reducing financial risks and shielding developers from potential liability under CERCLA.

“In order to be successful, the Brownfields program relies upon the establishment of effective public-private partnerships where all parties have a vested interest in the long-term restoration of a contaminated site.

“These partnerships help our local communities enjoy the benefits of economic redevelopment for decades to come.

“While we all recognize the successes of Brownfields, we must acknowledge, as the chairman did, that improvements are needed.

“This is particularly important if we are to that maximize return on the $1.5 [billion] dollar investment the program received from the IIJA [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act].

“For example, Congress appropriately intended Brownfields grants to be awarded on a competitive basis.

“However, rigorous and complex application requirements remain a continued source of confusion within the program.

“Applicants typically have only 60 days to compete and submit an application from the date EPA announces another year’s rounds of grant solicitations.

“The short timeframes and complicated requirements often lead to situations where rural communities are unable to compete with their larger urban counterparts due to a lack of resources.

“Unlike larger cities and urban centers, local municipalities, typically are operating on a shoestring budget, lack the good fortune of having multiple full-time grant writers on their staff.

“This makes it an uphill battle for rural communities when they try to compete. And as Mr. Carico told me, you lose points quickly…he says he’s had projects that have been 92s that have not made it. So, you can see how competitive that it is.  

“Discrepancies in staff resources and experience impede rural communities from competing on a level playing field, ultimately leaving many promising rural Brownfield development opportunities unrealized in disadvantaged areas that really need them most. Because until you can clean that and remediate, you’re not going to get any development around it.

“EPA deserves credit for recognizing that there is a problem.

“One way the agency has attempted to address the issue is through the establishment of the Technical Assistance to Brownfield Communities program, otherwise known as TAB. 

“There are six recipients of TAB funding, and I understand the Morgantown office in West Virginia is a TAB-funded place, referred to as TAB providers, with each being assigned to a specific region of the country.

“TAB providers serve as an independent resource, assisting applicants with expert technical assistance and guidance to help them better navigate the Brownfield application process.

“They serve an important role in facilitating more grant applications in small and rural communities that lack their own grant writing capacity.

Witness Introductions

“So, we are privileged to have with us today someone directly involved with the TAB program, and also have worked in West Virginia for many, many years, and that’s George Carico.

“George serves as the director of the West Virginia Regional Brownfields Assistance Center at Marshall University.

“He has devoted his career to the Brownfields arena, helping to bring much needed funding to our state and the region.

“Mr. Carico, I want to [commend] you for the high praise the West Virginia Brownfield Assistance Centers often receives from the broader Brownfields stakeholder community.

“Your forward-looking and innovative approach to maximizing rural participation in Brownfields grant opportunities should be a model for other rural areas in the country.

“I look forward to hearing about the work you have undertaken in rural areas to facilitate economic redevelopment and community vibrancy.

“We are also joined by Gerald Pouncey, thank you, Chairman of the Morris, Manning & Martin law firm.

“With decades of experience in the acquisition and redevelopment of hundreds of Brownfield properties, Mr. Pouncey will provide this committee with a much-needed perspective from the developer’s side.

“Mr. Pouncey’s past work was praised by EPA as a “best practice” in Brownfields redevelopment.

“He continues to receive numerous accolades, having been honored as the Environmental Lawyer of the Year in 2017, and as one of Atlanta’s 500 most influential leaders, so thank you for coming today.

“I look forward to hearing about how private sector participation in the Brownfields program is so important to long-term success.

“So, I want to thank everybody for being here.

“It’s an important hearing, and Chairman Carper, I’ll yield back to you.”

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