Omnibus Bill Proposes More Flexibility for Brownfields Funds

By Sylvia Carignan

Contaminated sites countrywide and the nonprofits and local governments that want them cleaned up could benefit if the fiscal year 2018 omnibus legislation becomes law.

The government spending bill, released March 21, includes provisions of a Senate bill that adds flexibility to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Program. The legislation creates larger Brownfields Program grants, lets local governments off the hook for cleanup liability at certain sites, and allows nonprofits to be eligible for grants.

The legislation authorizes the appropriation of $200 million for the Brownfields Program each year from 2019 to 2023. The program received about $25.6 million for fiscal year 2017 via continuing resolution.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) originally introduced those provisions in standalone legislation ( S. 822) in April. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the bill, but it was never scheduled for a Senate vote.

The committee also approved an amendment to the bill that changes the liability qualifications for parties responsible for the cleanup of Alaska properties. That amendment is included in the omnibus legislation.

The EPA started the Brownfields Program in 1995 to help clean up and redevelop properties where contaminants are present or potentially present. The brownfields law—formally known as the 2002 Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act—expanded technical and financial assistance for site remediation.

The House voted last October to reauthorize the program for the first time since 2002.

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