Summary of Hearings on Brownfields (6-15-06)
- June 15, 2006: Senate Environment and
Public Works Commmittee, Subcommittee on Superfund and Waste
Management "Oversight Hearing of the Superfund Program"
- June 8, 2006: House Committee on Transportation
and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
Hearing on "Reauthorization of the Brownfields Program:
Successes and Future Challenges"
- September 13, 2005: House Committee on
Government Reform, Subcommittee on Federalism and the Census
Hearing on "Brownfields and the Fifty States: Are State
Incentive Programs Capable of Solving America's Brownfields
Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Superfund and Waste Management
"Oversight Hearing on the Superfund Program"
June 15, 2006
Richard Durbin, U.S. Senator (D-IL)
Maria Cantwell, U.S. Senator (D-WA)
Susan Parker Bodine, Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste
and Emergency Response, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Katherine N. Probst, Senior Fellow and Director, Risk, Resource, and
Environmental Management, Resources for the Future
Dr. Leo Trasande, Assistant Director, Mount Sinai Center for Children's
Health and the Environment
Michael W. Steinberg, Superfund Settlements Project
Mr. Robert Spiegel, Edison Wetlands Association
Dr. J. Winston Porter, President, the Waste Policy Center
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing
on June 15, 2006 to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency's
(EPA) management of the Superfund program. Senate Democrats have criticized
the Superfund program for long delays and funding changes. Senators
have also been calling for more congressional oversight of the EPA
to ensure hazardous waste sites are managed properly. In her opening
statements, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) commented that she would
like to see more of these hearings. "The last oversight hearing
was four years ago
this is long overdue," she said.
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) were
the first witnesses to speak before the committee. Durbin was troubled
that the Superfund projects are now funded primarily by taxpayers
instead of industry. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation
and Liability Act (CERCLA) created an environmental tax on chemical
and petroleum companies which funded the cleanup of Superfund sites.
CERCLA expired in 1995, and ran out of funds in 2003. "Most of
us feel the industries responsible should pay," said Durbin.
Cantwell described how companies avoid civil-suit liability payments
by selling off assets, leaving the cost to the federal government.
"We need to address the lax enforcement and loopholes that allow
polluting corporations to manipulate bankruptcy laws and evade cleanup
responsibilities," Cantwell said.
Susan Bodine, Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Solid Waste
and Emergency, defended the progress the EPA has made on restoring
Superfund sites. She described projects of the 1980s and 90s as "easier
sites to clean up," and have been mostly completed. Bodine insisted
that funding reductions had not reduced the EPA's ability to efficiently
clean up Superfund projects since about 1995. She said that states
have taken the initiative to cleanup sites, reducing the burden on
the EPA. However, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) disagreed and pressed
Bodine for a straight answer. "You mean to tell me that with
additional funds, you would not be able to speed up the completion
of a single site? Yes or no," Lautenberg asked. In a brief and
heated exchange between Bodine and Lautenberg, Bodine mirrored her
earlier statement by saying that funding reductions had not significantly
reduced the ability to manage the Superfund projects.
When the floor was opened for questions, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
raised a concern about Superfund sites being labeled "privileged"
and thus not open to the public to review. "EPA should have an
open door policy on the status of these sites," she exclaimed.
Lautenberg was also upset about this practice, calling it "nonsense,"
and stating that the integrity of the agency was at risk. Families
should know if their children are at risk and how to mitigate the
danger, he added. In response, Bodine cited the work at EPA to increase
transparency. "The agency has been getting better at providing
information. Far more information is available now than ever in the
Other witnesses addressed ways to improve Superfund management. Kate
Probst, Senior Fellow at Resources for the Future said that fewer
projects are completed because appropriations have dropped 40% since
1987. Reinstating the CERCLA environmental tax would help to complete
more projects in a timely manner and increase the quality of environmental
monitoring at superfund sites. Mr. Robert Spiegel, Executive Director
of the Edison Wetlands Association (EWA), agreed with Probst's assessment.
"While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) publicly
states that their cleanups are on track, it is clear at many sites
I work on that work is proceeding at a far slower pace or not at all,"
said Spiegel. Spiegel has spent nearly twenty years raising money
to clean up Superfund sites in New Jersey that the EPA hasn't yet
Dr. Leo Trasande reviewed the threat to child development posed by
hazardous waste. Because children's organs are still developing, children's
bodies are especially vulnerable to environmental hazards. "Children
do not metabolize, detoxify, and excrete many toxins in the same way
as adults; thus the chemicals can reside much longer in children's
bloodstreams and cause more damage," he said. In addition, the
smaller mass of a child results in a higher concentration of toxins
than occurs in adults. "They take proportionately more of the
toxins in water, food and air into their little bodies," commented
Trasande. He added that normal childhood behaviors, such as crawling
and tasting to explore, enhance the danger of environmental toxins.
Michael W. Steinberg, representing the Superfund Settlements Project
testified from an industry viewpoint. The Superfund Settlements Project
is an industry-sponsored group formed in 1987 to encourage Superfund
site settlements and reducing the cost of Superfund projects. He described
the Superfund program as "mature" and stated that "[the
Superfund has] largely accomplished its goals." Steinberg added
that many of the projects are being completed at too high of a cost,
and suggested reducing oversight. Steinberg then clarified his statement
by saying oversight is important, but many projects hire too many
contractors for a single job.
In agreement, Dr. J. Winston Porter, President of the Waste Policy
Center, said the current funding mechanism is the best way to pay
for Superfund cleanup. Many sites have been caused by industries not
part of the CRCLA environmental tax including governmental agencies,
individuals, or unknown sources. "These taxes are unfair in that
they target only two industries, which together account for much less
than half of Superfund's contamination problems. Also, Superfund sites
are a broad societal problem which has been created by many types
of industries; local, state, and federal agencies; and even individuals.
Therefore, I believe the current process of using general revenues
and funds from directly responsible parties is the right approach,"
said Porter. He also agreed with Steinberg's assessment that the Superfund
projects could be approached more efficiently. "I am not convinced
that EPA and the Congress have done all they can to increase Superfund
efficiencies and to prioritize the use of existing funds," commented
For more information, consult the Subcommittee on Superfund and Waste
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
"Reauthorization of the Brownfields Program: Successes
and Future Challenges"
June 8, 2006
Susan Parker Bodine, Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste
and Emergency Response, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,
John Magill, Director, Office of Urban Development, Ohio Department
of Development, Columbus, OH
Terry Manning, Senior Planner and Brownfields Coordinator, South Florida
Regional Planning Council, Hollywood, FL
Jonathan Phillips, Senior Director, Cherokee Investment Partners,
Dr. Peter B. Meyer, Director of Applied Research, Institute for Public
Leadership and Public Affairs, Northern Kentucky University, Highland
The Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee
on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing on June 8, 2006
to discuss the successes and future challenges of the Environmental
Protection Agency's (EPA) Brownfields Program. Brownfields are former
industrial and commercial sites (such as factories, gas stations or
salvage yards) where property redevelopment may be complicated by
the presence of hazardous substances or other pollutants. In the U.S.
there are estimated to be 450,000 to one million brownfields sites
- which tend to drive down property values and provide little or no
The Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act
of 2001 (S.350),
which authorized the EPA to grant funds for assessment and cleanup
of brownfields and to provide liability protection, will expire at
the end of fiscal year 2006. Although several concerns were cited,
panel members showed general support for the reauthorization of the
brownfields program. Susan Parker Bodine, Assistant Administrator
of the EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, emphasized
the program's effectiveness over the past five years. To date, the
program has resulted in the assessment of more than 8,000 properties
and has revitalized neighborhoods, created public parks, and reduced
However, there are some outstanding issues with the brownfields program.
Terese Manning, the Senior Planner and Brownfields Coordinator for
the South Florida Regional Planning Council, provided many suggestions
for improvements of the program. She proposed that there be more flexibility
in EPA's grants, including a rolling grant application process, simplified
program requirements, and the availability of multi-purpose grants
that could be used for assessment, cleanup, demolition and property
reuse planning. Manning also emphasized the importance of increased
funding for the program. "EPA only funds approximately one-third
of all applications," she said. "Increased funding, or even
funding at the levels in the current Act will return more properties
to productive use." The brownfields site assessment and cleanup
program is currently authorized at a funding level of $200 million
annually, but appropriations have peaked at only $98 million.
Jonathan Phillips, Senior Director of Cherokee Investment Partners
- a private firm that specializes in the acquisition, and redevelopment
of brownfields, stressed that the program must find a way to attract
additional private capital. "If Congress wishes to seriously
address this nation's brownfield crisis, we must develop additional
federal incentives to draw private investment dollars to the more
complex and economically less desirable sites," said Phillips.
Otherwise, he said, "These sites will sit indefinitely."
Performance measures must also be developed to determine the extent
to which the brownfields program is achieving its goals. Although
the EPA reports on the cumulative number of sites assessed, the jobs
generated, and the distribution of funding, it does not report on
cleanup and redevelopment activities. Charles Boustany (R-LA) urged
the EPA to develop measures to show how the program has reduced environmental
risks and protected human health.
To read the hearing charter and the full text of witness testimony,
Committee on Government Reform
Subcommittee on Federalism and the Census
"Brownfields and the Fifty States: Are State Incentive
Programs Capable of Solving America's Brownfields Problem?"
September 13, 2005
Charles Bartsch, Senior Policy Anlyst, Northeast Midwest Group
Kathleen McGinty, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental
John Magill, Director, Office of Urban Development, Ohio Department
Douglas P. Scott, Director, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
Andrew Hogarth, Chief, Remediation and Redevelopment Division, Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality
Robert Colangelo, Executive Director, National Brownfield Association
Jonathon Philips, Senior Director, Cherokee Investment Partners, LLC
Charles Houder, Director of Acquisitions, Preferred Real Estate Investments,
Kevin Matthews, Director of Association and Governmental Relations,
David Cartmell, Mayor, Maysville, Kentucky
On Tuesday, September 13th the House Government Reform Committee's
Federalism and the Census Subcommittee held an oversight hearing entitled
"Brownfields and the Fifty States: Are State Incentive Programs
Capable of Solving America's Brownfields Problem?" Although the
hearing was planned to address state incentives for brownfields redevelopment,
in his opening statements Chairman Michael Turner (R-OH) made it clear
that he thought federal incentives should be introduced to complement
state programs. "We must craft a federal response to a federally-created
problem," he said. Turner is planning to introduce legislation
that would create a tax credit for brownfields redevelopment in poverty-rated
areas, as well as provide liability protection for sites enrolled
in state voluntary clean-up programs.
The first panel of witnesses consisted primarily of government officials
responsible for overseeing brownfields redevelopment from several
Midwestern and Northeastern states. In general these witnesses agreed
with Turner that federal help was needed to encourage private companies
to invest in brownfields. Kathleen McGinty from the Pennsylvania Department
of Environmental Protection testified that restricted federal funds
and slow and uncertain permitting processes had hindered brownfields
development in her state, and she urged Congress to remedy these problems.
Other witnesses focused on the success of state incentive programs
in Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan; but they also underlined the importance
of federal assistance in making these programs more effective. Andrew
Hogarth, representing Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality,
testified that Michigan would no longer be able to put as much funding
into its brownfields programs, and that, if redevelopment was to continue,
federal incentives would have to be increased.
Following the testimony Chairman Turner asked about the typical level
of contamination at brownfield sites and whether or not the most contaminated
sites were being redeveloped under current incentive plans. Most witnesses
responded that the sites that are most commonly developed are only
marginally contaminated. "One third of the sites are not contaminated
at all," said Charles Bartsch, "they just look lousy."
The witnesses also agreed that the more challenging sites are not
even being considered by developers because of the financial risks
these sites pose. Several witnesses said that contaminated groundwater
is a factor that makes a site particularly unattractive.
In the second panel, representatives of private firms involved in
brownfields redevelopment, National Brownfield Association Director
Robert Colangelo, and the mayor of Maysville, KY, all underscored
the fact that the most attractive brownfield sites have already been
developed, and that other sites would not be profitable without federal
assistance. Kevin Matthews of AIG Environmental claimed that for every
$1 spent on encouraging redevelopment, Massachussets has gained $458
in terms of increased tax revenue and job creation. Maysville's Mayor
David Cartmell reported that several brownfields projects in his city
have been delayed by the US EPA's slow permitting process.
The witnesses did not all agree when asked whether tax credits or
direct subsidies were the most effective means of encouraging brownfields
redevelopment. When asked which of the two methods was better, Calangelo,
Philips, and Houder said tax credits were the decisive factor for
investors, while Matthews and Cartmell claimed that subsidies were
more effective. The entire panel agreed, however, that liability relief
would encourage more developers to work with brownfield sites. "Anything
that lets industry see light at the end of the tunnel is a good thing,"
Overall, the witnesses were optimistic about the future of brownfields
development, and made it clear that any help from the government would
be welcomed. Jonathon Philips, from Cherokee Investments, warned the
subcommittee that they should act quickly while the real estate market
was strong. "Any sites that are not developed now, when prices
are at a record high, will not be developed for a long time,"
Sources: House Government Reform Committee; Hearing testimony.
Contributed by Peter Douglas, 2005 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern; Katie Ackerly,
Government Affairs Staff; and Jessica Rowland, 2006 AGI/AIPG Summer
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI
Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on June 21, 2006