Bipartisan Senators Lead Successful Effort to Include Brownfields Reauthorization in Senate Omnibus

BUILD Act reauthorizes EPA’s Brownfields program through 2023 and provides funding to spur cleanups in small communities, rural areas and disadvantaged areas

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) led a successful effort to include the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act of 2015 (BUILD Act) in the final Senate omnibus appropriations legislation for Fiscal Year 2018. 

The Brownfields program, which is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and has traditionally enjoyed strong bipartisan support, provides grants and technical assistance to states, local governments, tribes and redevelopment agencies to support the assessment, cleanup and reuse of Brownfield sites. In 2017, $80 million provided in grants through the Brownfields program leveraged over $24 billion in additional investment, supported nearly 130,000 jobs and brought 69,200 acres of idle land back to being ready for productive use. Among other things, the BUILD Act reauthorizes the Brownfields program through fiscal year 2023, provides funding for technical assistance grants to small communities and rural areas, expands the scope of eligible grant recipients to include non-profit community groups and authorizes funding for multi-purpose grants to tackle more complex sites.

“With more than 450,000 Brownfield sites across the country, we have our work cut out for us, but the BUILD Act will help us make progress cleaning up these contaminated sites and breathing life into formerly degraded areas,” said Senator Carper. “Since the program began, Delaware has received nearly $11 million in grants, and we see the positive impact of this program in places like the revitalized riverfront in Wilmington, Delaware that continues to bring new jobs and spur economic growth across southern Wilmington. Instead of cutting funding and crippling this economic driver as President Trump’s budget proposed, the BUILD Act will help ensure that communities across the country have the tools they need to clean up contaminated sites and make our environment healthier and more productive like we have in Wilmington.”

“The inclusion of the bipartisan BUILD Act in the funding bill shows how Congress is working together to promote local economic development while cleaning up contaminated sites,” said Senator Inhofe. “This program has already seen real results in Oklahoma and the reauthorization will continue to create jobs in communities across the country. Without the Brownfields program, Oklahoma City wouldn’t have Bricktown and Tulsa wouldn’t have the BOK Center; this program has been essential to our communities redeveloping their urban core. It’s reauthorization will ensure its continued success, particularly in Oklahoma’s more rural communities.” 

“Improving Brownfields utilization is a bipartisan legislative bright spot, and the BUILD Act is critical to cleaning up the decades of abuse our lands have experienced at the hands of corporate polluters,” said Senator Markey. “Cleaning up Brownfield sites is a win-win for Massachusetts and the country, helping to create jobs and spur economic activity while revitalizing underutilized and polluted lands. I look forward to continuing to work with Senators Inhofe and Carper and all of my colleagues to ensure that these Brownfield sites will no longer be part of the problem, but a part of our economic solution.”

“I’m pleased that the Brownfields program was included in the omnibus bill to fund the government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018,” said Senator Rounds. “The Brownfields program provides funding for technical assistance grants to small communities and rural areas. This will be helpful to many communities in my home state of South Dakota.”

“Today marks a promising step forward in our efforts to restore the estimated 450,000 brownfield sites nationwide to productive uses,” said Senator Booker. “Both as mayor and senator, I’ve seen firsthand how the Brownfields program helps revitalize communities across New Jersey. I’m glad our bipartisan bill to reauthorize and improve this critical program is included in this spending package.”

“Brownfield grant funds have been used successfully across communities in Idaho to address potential environmental challenges as properties are expanded or redeveloped,” said Senator Crapo. “The BUILD Act improves this already successful program by increasing access for rural and small communities to apply for grants while providing much-needed certainty for long-term projects.  Including the BUILD Act in this omnibus bill will enable communities to draft long-term plans and prioritize important projects.”

Highlights of the BUILD Act include:

  • Authorizes up to $20,000 in technical assistance grants to eligible entities in small communities, Indian tribes, rural areas, and disadvantaged areas
  • Expands the eligibility for Brownfields grants for nonprofit organizations to include certain nonprofit organizations, limited liability corporations, limited partnerships, and community development entities
  • Increases the funding limit for remediation grants to $500,000 for each site, with some exceptions for higher funding, and authorizes multi-purpose grants up to $1 million, which provide greater certainty for long-term project financing
  • Relieves state and local governments from liability under certain circumstances if they own a contaminated site but did not cause the contamination.
  • Allows eligible entities to use up to 5 percent of their Brownfields grant funding for administrative costs
  • Incentivizes clean energy development on brownfields and revitalization of waterfront sites.
  • Reauthorizes the Brownfield program at the same authorized funding level ($250 million per year) through fiscal year 2023.