Funding Brownfield Redevelopment

Interpreting and making sense of multi-level state funding
PRS Briefs
PRS Policy Brief 0506-08
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a brownfield 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." In both Vermont and New Hampshire, the majority of these locations are polluted with petroleum products, but examples include many other types of sites, such as landfills, dry cleaners, and former industrial or manufacturing locations that may be contaminated with other hazardous substances in addition to petroleum products. Both Vermont and New Hampshire are placed in a more difficult position than more densely populated states in encouraging brownfield redevelopment because of the availability of land that is free of contamination. In more urbanized states, the high value for land reduces the relative cost of cleanup; the scarcity of land helps highlight the importance of redevelopment. The strong brownfield programs of Massachusetts and California reflect these effects. In rural states, the reuse of brownfields is less pressing due to the ample supply of greenfields (uncontaminated land), which are easier and less costly to develop. However, the redevelopment of these polluted sites is equally important to rural states for maintaining greenfields and for revitalizing the communities in which they occur. This report examines federal and state programs used to encourage and fund brownfield redevelopment and looks at the status of brownfields within both Vermont and New Hampshire in order to discuss potential actions that may facilitate future brownfield redevelopment.

EPA provides a major source of funding for brownfield assessment and cleanup. Between 2003 and 2006, Vermont received $5,410,000 and New Hampshire received $2,890,790 in EPA assessment and cleanup grants and revolving fund loans of the approximately $300 million in funding that EPA has distributed nationally. Several other federal agencies have programs that provide brownfield funding for specific uses, such as economic redevelopment, housing and transportation projects, or general funding which may be directed toward brownfield projects. Understanding which grants may be applied to a specific project is valuable when trying to secure the necessary funding for brownfield redevelopment.

At the state level, both Vermont and New Hampshire have a variety of programs ranging from liability protection to revolving fund loans. Both states have well developed programs for petroleum brownfields, financed by taxes on petroleum products. These programs' activities include the clean up of spilled underground storage tanks and funding for low-income individuals to replace below standard home heating tanks. New Hampshire does not offer any grants for non-petroleum brownfields, while Vermont has funding available for both assessment and remediation of non-petroleum sites. A number of steps may be taken in order to encourage additional brownfield redevelopment. Brownfields are often associated with low-income areas; therefore, approaching the sites as economic development problems rather than environmental ones can open projects to more funding sources. One resource that can provide both economic and environmental benefits is the brownfield job training rants program administered by EPA. Offered as training programs for low-income workers, the programs teach the skills needed in brownfield remediation. Encouraging private investment in brownfields sites can often help spark redevelopment and reate jobs in an area. Additionally, preventing new sites from occurring, by holding petroleum storage sites to higher standards, can help reduce brownfields in the future. Finally, encouraging local involvement can be valuable in identifying and addressing smaller sites important to a community.