IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 1, 2001

Conference Leaders Back Bipartisan Brownfields Bill
Bush Administration Pledges Support

Washington, DC -- Elizabeth (NJ) Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, speaking on behalf of The U. S. Conference of Mayors, joined with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman in pledging their support for a bipartisan Senate brownfields initiative, the "Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Remediation Act of 2001" (S. 350).

Testifying yesterday (2/28/01) before the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Control and Risk Assessment, Bollwage told panel members that "the nation's Mayors believe that the time has come for bipartisan action on brownfields." Bollwage emphasized the Mayors’ strong support for S. 350, legislation that was introduced last week with 14 of the Committee’s 18 members as original cosponsors.

In her testimony on behalf of the Bush Administration, Whitman said, "I am pleased to report that the Administration supports S. 350." Administrator Whitman’s preceded a strong signal of support from President George W. Bush himself. In his address to Congress last evening, President Bush stated, "my budget will improve our environment by accelerating the cleanup of toxic brownfields."

The Administration’s endorsement of the bipartisan brownfields package further bolsters Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Bob Smith and his efforts to make action on S. 350 one of the first legislative accomplishments of the U.S. Senate. The Conference of Mayors has made enactment of brownfields legislation a top priority for Congress, dating back to the Conference’s 1995 Annual Meeting in Portland.

"We applaud President Bush’s commitment to help cities accelerate the cleanup and reuse of brownfields," said Charlotte Mayor Patrick McCrory, Chair of the Conference’s Energy and Environment Committee. "Cities like Charlotte have had success already but we now need S. 350 to further our efforts to recycle brownfields. We are pleased that his Administration is supporting this priority legislation."

"The nation’s Mayors are excited about [the Committee’s] plans to move promptly on this priority legislation," stated Bollwage, who serves as a co-chair of the Conference’s Brownfields Task Force. "We believe S. 350 provides the new Congress with a unique opportunity to make

vital policy changes and deliver much needed resources directly to cities and other local areas in support of the many public and private efforts to reclaim brownfields all across this nation." (Brownfields are abandoned or underutilized properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.)

The key provisions of S. 350 include:

  • Authorization for $150 million in funds for assessment and cleanup of brownfield sites;
  • New legal protections through Superfund liability relief for innocent parties, such as contiguous property owners, prospective purchasers and innocent land owners;
  • Authorization for $50 million per year for state cleanup programs, and creation of appropriate limits on federal enforcement authority in deference to state programs;
  • Creation of a public record of brownfield sites, and enhanced community involvement in site cleanup and reuse;
  • Provisions for deferrals of listing sites on the National Priorities List, if states are taking action at sites.

"I'm pleased to see that the President has made brownfields redevelopment a priority for his Administration," said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a Past President of the Conference of Mayors. "America's Mayors understand that redeveloping abandoned and underutilized properties in America's cities has real potential to stimulate economic growth, encourage job creation, create more beautiful and livable communities, and bring new business and residents into our cities. The Senate’s brownfields redevelopment package is a win-win, common sense proposition, and the Mayors look forward to working with the Bush Administration and Congress to enact S. 350 in this session."

In his statement for the Committee, Bollwage provided findings from the Conference’s Third National Report on Brownfields Redevelopment. In the report, issued in February of 2000, 210 cities estimated that they had more than 21,000 brownfield sites, totaling more than 81,000 acres of land. The study reported that their number one obstacle to brownfields redevelopment was the need for local cleanup funds to bring these properties back into productive use (90% of the survey respondents indicated that cleanup funds were needed). The second most common impediment was liability issues, followed by the need for more environmental assessments to determine the type and extent of the contamination.

To view the full text of Mayor Bollwage’s testimony, or to download a copy of The Conference’s Third National Report on Brownfields Redevelopment, please visit our website at www.usmayors.org.

Contacts: Kevin McCarty or Jubi Headley, (202) 293-7330

The United States Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are about 1,100 such cities in the country today. Each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor.

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