Friday, May 7, 2010

Brownfield Remediation in Minnesota

It is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S. According to the EPA, a brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

Managing brownfields is complex because the liability for the contamination may not be obvious. Therefore, a variety of organizations may play a role in the course of cleaning up and redeveloping brownfield sites. For instance, local economic development or planning agencies may provide tax incentives for brownfield redevelopments in order to attract investors and businesses to their communities, guide growth, and increase jobs. In Minnesota, the Minnesota Control Agency (MPCA) Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup (VIC) Program offers technical assistance and liability assurances. However, the EPA and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) provide the majority of the cleanup and redevelopment financial support.

The EPA provides four basic grant types, including:
  1. Assessment Grants provide funding for a grant recipient to inventory, characterize, assess, and conduct planning and community involvement related to brownfield sites. In 2010, four Minnesotan organizations received a total of $1.6 million out of a total of $37 million in assessment grants from the EPA Brownfield Program.
  2. Revolving Loan Fund Grants enable states, political subdivisions, and Indian tribes to make low interest loans to carry out cleanup activities at brownfields properties. Minnesota did not receive any funding in 2010.
  3. Cleanup Grants provide direct funding for grant recipients to carry out cleanup activities at brownfield sites. The St. Paul Port Authority received $600,000 out of $35.1 million available
  4. Job Training Grants provide environmental training for residents of brownfield communities. Minnesota did not receive any job training grants in 2010.

MN DEED provides three programs aimed at supporting brownfield cleanup and redevelopment:
  1. Contamination Cleanup and Investigation Grant Program helps communities pay for assessing and cleaning up contaminated sites. In FY09, 32 sites totaling $10.4 million were selected for cleanup or investigation grants.
  2. Minnesota Cleanup Revolving Loan Program provides low-interest loans through the EPA to clean up contaminated sites.. In 2009, DEED received $2 million in revolving loan funds, but did not receive any funding in 2010 (DEED, 2010).
  3. Redevelopment Grant Program helps communities with the costs of redeveloping blighted sights. Eight projects totaling approximately $2.5 million were awarded redevelopment grants in 2010.
Funding is best situated at the federal and state governments due to their high level of resources. However, all grants are directed to lower levels of government such as cities, counties, port authorities, housing and redevelopment authorities, and economic development authorities. The local nature of real estate markets suggests that state and local governments are in the best position to determine how valuable the redevelopment of a particular brownfield will be in reducing a site’s negative health and environmental effects and in encouraging economic development and social justice. However, the funding of brownfield remediation must be a cooperative effort with the national, state, and local government providing resources. Single projects needs multiple funding sources in order to cleanup and redevelop a site. Although local governments should bear the costs of creating the benefits of local economic growth, the national and state governments must assist in those efforts.

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