Press Release

Conference President Calls for Next Congress and Administration to Pass Brownfields Redevelopment Legislation

October 10, 2000
Kevin McCarty
(202) 861-6711

Jubi Headley
(202) 861-6766

Atlantic City, NJ -- Today Conference President and Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles called on the next Congress and Administration to pass comprehensive 'brownfields' legislation, to provide new resources to cities for site assessments and cleanups, to change Superfund liability rules to give relief to innocent parties, and to clarify the role of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states in brownfields redevelopment.

Mayor Coles made his remarks during a keynote address before more than 2,000 experts, activists, and government officials gathered for the opening plenary session of the Brownfields 2000 Conference at the Atlantic City Convention Center. "While sprawl is debated on a national level, cities and counties are coming together to evaluate sprawl in the context of their local economies. These local leaders are asking questions about the economics of sprawl," Coles said.

Coles and other Mayors across America see brownfields redevelopment not only as environmentally sound policy, but also as an important tool to metro economic growth. In his remarks Coles cited data from a Conference of Mayors report finding that metropolitan areas are the focal points of America's current and future economic prosperity. Compiled by Standard & Poor's DRI, the report documents the Gross Metropolitan Product* (GMP) of the nation's 319 largest metro areas, and shows improved economic vitality for the nation's metro regions. (The full report and data are available on the Conference's website at

According to the report:

  • U. S. metro areas account for 85% of the nation's gross domestic product;
  • Metro economies are responsible for 86%, or more than $2.4 trillion, of the nation's economic growth from 1992 to 1999;
  • If city/county metro economies were ranked with nations, 47 of the world's largest 100 economies would be U.S. metro areas; and
  • The GMP of the ten largest U.S. metro areas exceeds the combined output of 31 states.
"Clearly, cities are not only back, but are leading the resurgence of the nation's economy. But we cannot sit idly by and assume that prosperity will continue," Coles warned. "[Mayors] will push for policies to strengthen the economic engines of our cities…we must pay special attention to cities that have not yet benefited from the strong economy. We want, and need, the federal government to be a partner in supporting our work and leadership at the local level. They could start with brownfields legislation."

Led by Mayor Coles, the Mayors have been meeting since May to develop a transition strategy to increase investment in smart growth; as part of this effort the Mayors see brownfields redevelopment as a critical component of community revitalization and investment. The Mayors have consistently pressed this Congress to enact legislation that would accelerate local efforts to redevelop brownfield properties, without significant results. The Mayors have also urged the top policy advisors to the Bush and Gore Campaigns to expand investment in brownfields redevelopment during the next Administration.

"As I speak today, Congress is now wrapping up its work in this session, so we do not have all the facts on their final actions, but sadly, brownfields legislation will not be among this Congress' accomplishments. This must change in the 107th Congress," Coles said.

According to the Conference of Mayors' 2000 survey on the status of America's brownfields, entitled Recycling America's Land, 201 cities identified more than 81,568 acres of land that were abandoned or underutilized-an acreage nearly the same as the total land area of the cities of Minneapolis and Pittsburgh combined. And more than 180 cities said they could support additional people moving into their city without adding appreciably to their existing infrastructure. Of these, 118 respondents estimated that, collectively, they could support more than 5.8 million new people in their cities-nearly equivalent to the population of Chicago and Los Angeles combined. (The full report is available on The Conference's website at

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 United states today. Each city is represented in the membership of the Conference by its chief elected official, the Mayor.