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EPA Awards $2.5 Million to Rebuild Blighted Pennsylvania Communities

Release Date: 7/17/2000
Contact Information: Ruth Wuenschel, (215) 814-5540

Ruth Wuenschel, 215-814-5540

PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Bradley M. Campbell announced that grants totaling $2.5 million have been awarded today to five Pennsylvania communities participating in the EPA’s Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative.

The cities of Clairton, Duquesne, and McKeesport in western Pennsylvania and Luzerne and Lehigh Counties in the east will each be funded $500,000 to capitalize Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Funds pilots. The monies will enable the recipients to provide loans to public and private parties for the cleanup of brownfields properties. The five grants are among a group of seven awarded nationwide by the EPA today. (Call above contact for individual factsheets.)

A brownfield site is an abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial or commercial facility where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. EPA designed the Brownfield Economic Redevelopment Initiative to empower states, communities, and other redevelopment stakeholders to work together to assess, cleanup, and reuse brownfield sites for the economic benefit of the local community. Establishing revolving loan funds which offer low-interest loans to businesses is intended to leverage cleanup and redevelopment resources.

“These revolving loan funds expand the Clinton Administration's efforts to transform toxic sites across the country into clean, healthy engines of local prosperity. Communities will be able to help EPA remove toxic threats, while achieving the community's vision for reuse of the site," said Campbell.

The cities of Clairton, Duquesne, and McKeesport are located in the Monongahela River Valley of Allegheny County, near Pittsburgh. The region was once the center of the United States steelmaking industry. However, the steel industry lost 75,000 jobs in the Pittsburgh region causing population losses and large numbers of abandoned properties. Today, poverty rates in some old mill towns exceed 25 percent and unemployment reaches nearly 15 percent, in some cases. As much as one-third of the population in these communities is comprised of minorities.

Luzerne County is located in Northeastern Pennsylvania, in the heart of the eastern “coal field” region. The decline of the coal industry, as well as declines in the textile and steel industries, have left a legacy of blighted communities and potentially contaminated land throughout Luzerne County. The county’s inventory of abandoned and underused commercial properties includes approximately 62 square miles of abandoned minelands. Reuse of the minelands is vital to the achievement of the county’s land use objectives. Approximately 12 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. Seven percent are unemployed.

Lehigh County is located in the Lehigh Valley in Eastern Pennsylvania. Agriculture, mining, iron and steel production, textile manufacturing, and slate and cement industry activities have all played a role in the local economy. Economic cycles and industry downturns over the years have resulted in massive layoffs and site abandonment. Currently, the county-wide poverty rate averages seven percent, but it ranges as high as fifteen percent in some areas.

All of the Pennsylvania grant recipients announced today will contribute in-kind services to maximize loan values. In addition, many of the targeted brownfields sites are in state-designated Keystone Opportunity Zones and/or Enterprise Zones making them potentially eligible for tax abatements on real estate; income; sales and use; and corporate use taxes.
Other possible sources of funding for interested businesses and developers include existing Brownfields Assessment Demonstration Pilot grant funds, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development grant and loan programs, state-sponsored low-income loans for remediation and/or reclamation, and private lending institutions.

Successful use of the grants will provide a strong step toward the economic rebuilding of the recipient communities. The monies will reduce or eliminate blight, create job opportunities, increase local tax bases and curtail urban sprawl.