EPA pledges to redevelop Brownfields project

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and 21 federal agencies and departments have pledged to help redevelop EPA’s “Brownfields Initiative,” a nationwide program to revitalize properties – including one in Anahola – with environmental contamination.

EPA administrator Christie Whitman made the announcement at the “Brownfields 2002-Investing in the Future Conference” held in Charlotte, N.C. The conference ran from Nov. 12-15.

It is the same conference Hawaiian community leader and businessman James Torio planned to attend to move along a Brownfields project in Anahola.

Torio said he planned to meet with federal officials on “Project Faith,” a proposed $16 million cultural and business center in Anahola to promote Hawaiian culture and history, provide human services, and help Hawaiians become economically self-sufficient.

Once a 20-acre site is cleared of abandoned vehicles and debris through the Brownfields project, the Anahola project can move forward.

The Anahola Homesteaders Council, with which Torio is aligned, is taking the lead in the project.

The EPA and the federal agencies have made more than 100 commitments for cooperative work to help communities more effectively “prevent cleanup and reuse Brownfields projects, Whitman said.

The conference, held at the Charlotte, N.C. Convention Center, is co-hosted by the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania and the International City/County Management Association.

“The year 2002 will be remembered as the year we knocked down the roadblocks, strengthened the partnerships, affirmed Washington’s financial commitment, and unleashed the energy and creativity of the private sector,” Whitman said.

The highlights of the goals in the “action agenda” commitments include:

-$850 million over the next five years to states, tribes, counties, municipalities, and non-profit organizations through Brownfields assessment, cleanup, revolving loan fund, job training and state/tribal grants.

– Pledges of grants from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Justice, and U.S. Department of Labor.

– Commitment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s to lead an interagency “Portfields” project that will focus on the redevelopment and reuse of idled or abandoned lands in and around ports, harbors and marine transportation hubs.

– Commitment by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for eight new pilot projects to address restoration in and around urban rivers.

– A new effort to share information with interest groups by methods such as linking web sites.

The goals are of a comprehensive effort by the Bush administration to address Brownfields cleanup and revitalization efforts, EPA said.

Earlier this year, President Bush signed into law the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act to help states and communities clean up and revitalize Brownfields sites, EPA said.

As part of his FY 2003 budget request, Bush also has called for more than a doubling of money for the Brownfields program to $200 million, EPA said.

During the conference, more than 75 technical session and workshops and more than 40 roundtable discussions were to be held.

In addition, the “Phoenix Award” was to be given. The award was created in 1997 to recognize highly innovative, practical remediation projects which bring Brownfields sites back to productive use.

Other topics to be addressed included finance, insurance, community involvement, legal liability, new state, local and tribal programs, land conservation, remediation technology, real estate transactions and new industrial residential and commercial development, EPA said.

The conference also provided participants a chance to explore banking and finance issues associated with Brownfields redevelopment.

To date, EPA’s Brownfields assistance has helped leverage more than $4.6 billion in private investments, created more than 20,000 jobs and resulted in the assessment of more than 4,000 properties.

The Brownfields projects help preserve open space. Every acre reclaimed by through a Brownfields project saves 4.5 acres of green space, the EPA said.

For a copy of the EPA action agenda, go to www.epa.gov/brownfields.

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