Environmental: Brownfields

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Brownfields 101

A brownfield site is defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency as “…real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”

It is estimated that there may be between 400,000 to 600,000 such properties across the country. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the environment, reduces blight, & takes development pressures off greenspaces and working lands. Under its Brownfields Program, the US EPA provides funding and   technical assistance in the assessment and cleanup of brownfields sites. Could you have brownfield sites? Possibly, since businesses that leave behind such contaminated sites that may include but are not limited to:

  • Railroads
  • Gas stations
  • Oil refineries
  • Dry cleaners
  • Liquid/chemical storage facilities
  • Steel and heavy manufacturing plants
  • Warehouses

Even abandoned houses could be potential brownfields sites, if, for example, they contain pollutants, are infested, or weather damaged, or maybe had been used for illegal substance production.

  • Brownfield sites have redevelopment potential
  • The redevelopment of brownfields can provide many benefits to a community, including an increased tax base, the creation of new jobs, the utilization of existing infrastructure, and the removal of blight. The removal of contaminants in the area also helps to protect human health and the environment
  • Case studies indicate that brownfield redevelopment can offer significant environmental benefits when compared with alternative development scenarios, such as lower stormwater runoff, better air quality and daily vehicle miles traveled per capita

The Goals of US EPA’s Brownfields Program are:

 To protect the environment by addressing brownfields to promote the health and wellbeing of people and environment.

  • To promote partnerships by enhancing collaboration and communication essential to facilitate brownfields cleanup and reuse.
  • To strengthen the marketplace by providing financial and technical assistance to bolster the private market.
  • To sustain reuse by redeveloping brownfields to enhance a community’s long-term quality of life.

What impacts do Brownfields have on the community?

Brownfields may have the potential to decrease city tax revenues, as well as property values, which ultimately impacts the local economy. On Brownfields properties in which environmental contamination is present, there remains an ongoing potential threat to human health and the surrounding environment. In addition to negative economic and environmental impacts, the blight created by Brownfields can also affect redevelopment and aesthetics of neighboring properties.

What are the benefits of Brownfields redevelopment?

Redeveloping Brownfield site may help a community to control or eliminate blight, and address environmental, public health, and safety concerns. Instead on expanding the footprint of the built environment into undeveloped areas, redeveloping existing sites and reusing existing infrastructure, utilities, and roads allows undeveloped land to be preserved, boosts the local economy by increasing local tax bases and creating jobs and also improves the value of adjacent property and aesthetics of the neighborhood.

SCPDC Brownfields Programs

SCPDC has existing US EPA funding under both Assessment Grants and   Revolving Loans to conduct Pre-Phase I site inventory screenings, as well as Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs). These programs provide:

  • Identification of Brownfield sites
  • Consultations with property owners, developers & prospective purchasers
  • Assistance with state or federal regulatory agency programs
  • Phase I/II site assessments
  • No cost environmental assessments for qualifying redevelopment projects in the SCPDC region
  • Low interest environmental clean-up loan funds/grants to governmental entities and non-profits, for environmental clean up to aid redevelopment in the areas covered by the parishes in the APC region, the SCPDC region, City/Parish of East Baton Rouge and City of Lake Charles.

Types of eligible projects may include:

  • sites that have the redevelopment   potential to benefit the community;
  • sites that help bring commercial sites back into re-use;
  • sites that may be used for open space, recreation or public facilities.

SCPDC Brownfields Programs

We can assist you to conduct:

  • pre-Phase I Site Inventory Screenings, to identify brownfield sites.
  • Phase I Environmental Site Assessments to help identify potential contaminants on a site as well as recommending clean up options. They generally involve site surveys and records searches. The Phase I ESA conducted prior to purchase of a property generally fulfills the All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) requirement, a crucial step in protecting a future landowner’s liability with respect to contamination.
  • Phase II Environmental Site Assessments to provide a more detailed analysis of site conditions, the cleanup required per industry standards, and any follow-up monitoring of the site post-cleanup.
  • If a property has environmental concerns, developers can run into difficulty obtaining standard bank financing due to liability. In such cases, our Brownfields Program has a revolving loan fund to provide low-interest gap financing for environmental clean-up activities. Our revolving loan fund may either be a sub-grant to governmental and non-profit entities, or a loan to private developers.

Questions on Owner Liability? Check out these US EPA pages that provide EPA guidance and site-specific tools to address landowner liability concerns:

Brownfields Related Laws and Rules

  • Brownfields Laws and Regulations, U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – this is set up like a link to the EPA page

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