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Bush, 61 Senators and Mayors Back Brownfields Bill
Whitman, Chafee, Morial, McCrory at Press Club to Urge Senate to Act on S. 350

by Jubi Headley and Kevin McCarty
March 19, 2001

EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman discusses the Mayors' position on S. 350 with, left to right, New Orleans Mayor and Conference Vice President Marc H. Morial; Charlotte Mayor Patrick McCrory; who serves as Chair of the Conference's Energy and Environmental Standing Committee; and Conference Executive J. Thomas Cochran.
On Friday, March 9, building upon successful Senate Committee action the day before, New Orleans Mayor and Conference of Mayors Vice President Marc Morial convened a Washington press conference to urge Congress to act promptly on S.350, the "Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act of 2001." On March 8 this bipartisan legislation cleared the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on a 15-3 vote.

"This legislation will incentivize private developers to redevelop brownfields," said Mayor Morial at the National Press Club event. "Our Mayors have worked to get this land, this precious soil, returned to commerce. But without a federal partnership in place, we cannot do it. Now finally, the Beltway gridlock we've faced on this issue for so long is broken, and we're poised to do it." (Brownfields are abandoned or underutilized properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.)

Joining Mayor Morial at the Announcement were Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman; U. S. Senator Lincoln Chafee (RI), Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Control and Risk Assessment; Charlotte Mayor Patrick McCrory, Chair of the Conference's Energy and Environment Committee; Paul Helmke, Former Mayor of Fort Wayne (IN) and Past President of the Conference; and Conference Executive Director J. Thomas Cochran. Governor Whitman praised the Mayors for their "strong support" of S. 350, and affirmed the Administration's strong support for the bill. "Mayors are on the front lines of government. When there's an abandoned site, when there's an old gas station, the Mayors are the ones who get the faxes. The Mayors are the ones who get the phone calls. So we need to give [the Mayors] the tools that they require to respond to their citizens. That's why I'm so supportive, and this Administration is so supportive, of this legislation. That's why the President put it at the top of his environmental agenda. It's time that we moved brownfields from the dictionary to the statute books. That's what we're after with this legislation."

Senator Chafee noted that prospects for passage of this bill increased greatly since the last session of Congress, when an identical bill fell short. Chafee pointed out that "the leadership of President Bush and Administrator Whitman will make the difference" in passing the bill this year.

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; and
  • Provisions for deferrals of listing sites on the National Priorities List, if states are taking action at sites.

"Brownfields redevelopment is about recycling land," said Mayor McCrory, citing the important environmental and economic benefits to cities." Recycled brownfields add to the city's tax base, providing more funding for schools, roads, police, and mass transit. And recycling brownfields reduces sprawl, by locating business and people in places that already have an existing infrastructure to serve them, instead of creating new infrastructure in green spaces. Passing this legislation is a bipartisan effort, not only among the Congress and the executive branch but among the Mayors, and it's a win-win for everybody."

Mayor Helmke, often considered the 'father' of the brownfields redevelopment movement, noted that "Brownfields are an issue in communities of every size across the country. There are brownfields in every congressional District in this nation, from abandoned gas stations to old mining sites."

The Committee vote moved this important legislation one step further toward full Senate action. Mayors across the nation are building national support for passage of S. 350. Introduced less than a month ago, the bill had already attracted 61 cosponsors as of press time. With momentum building for S.350 Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has stated his intention to have the bill ready for approval by the full Senate as early as next week. At the press conference Senator Chafee read a statement for Senator Smith. "Communities will be better off, the environment will be cleaner and we have a chance to do a great deal of good for the nation. Brownfields legislation represents a win-win for all involved." Senator Smith also emphasized that by reducing the many legal and regulatory barriers that presently stand in the way of brownfields development, "this bill will alleviate some of the pressure to consume existing green space, while strengthening local economies."

View the video of the press conference, download the press conference transcript, or check to see which Senators have signed on as sponsors of S.350 at the Conference's website,

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