The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continues its series of hearing on “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America” this week, focusing on brownfields this time. The panel’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment’s March 28th hearing was entitled Revitalizing American Communities through the Brownfields Program.
In fiscal year 2016, the EPA provided a total of $116.7 million for more than 400 grants to 182 communities. Although the brownfields program is generally well received, some have suggested that changes be considered along with reauthorization of the funding. These include allowing the grants to be for multiple purposes so that they are not just for assessment or cleanup. Multiple purposes could include assessment, cleanup, and demolition
The Subcommittee heard from a panel of witnesses that include representatives from a state brownfields agency, two mayors, a city councilman, a county chairman, and a real estate investment expert. In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chair Garret Graves (R-LA) praised the program as being effective and for spurring economic development. He also singled out its ability to leverage federal funding with state, local and private funding, to the tune of $17 to each federal dollar invested. In her opening statement, Ranking Democrat Grace Nepolitano (D-CA) also praised the program and noted to her dismay that President Trump has proposed to zero out funding for the program in his 2018 budget request. Her thoughts were echoed by several committee members, including some Republicans, and by the witnesses.
ASCE supports the Brownfields program and will oppose the President’s proposed elimination of the program. The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gave Hazardous Waste at D+. Among the ASCE’s solutions to raise the grades is to expand Brownfield grant programs to support investment in pre-development site characterization activities, increasing leverage and stimulating greater investment from state, regional, local, and private funding sources.