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The National Association of Local Government Environmental Professionals Brownfields Showcase Community Summit, Washington, D.C.

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at the
National Association of Local Government Environmental Professionals
Brownfields Showcase Community Summit
Washington, D.C.

June 25, 2001

Thank you, Bill (Abolt) for that introduction. I had the chance to meet Bill last
April at the Chicago Academy of Sciences where we were with a great group of kids who
were learning about solar energy. It’s good to see you again, Bill.

It’s also good to be with all of you – some of EPA’s most dedicated and effective partners. I am pleased that every one of our 28 Brownfield Showcase communities are represented here today. We share the belief that reclaiming America’s brownfields is a top environmental priority in America today.

You can be sure that both President Bush and I are committed to continuing the work of brownfields restoration. Reclaiming brownfields is an effective way to help revitalize and reinvigorate those neighborhoods where they are located while, at the same time, prevent the spread of sprawl and its attendant problems.

The program which we are celebrating today proves the truth of something those of us who have worked in state and local government have known for a long time – empowering local communities to adopt innovative approaches to the challenges they face is often the best path to productive progress.

During my years in New Jersey, I saw what support for brownfields redevelopment at the state level can accomplish.

When I was governor, we gave our mayors the tools they needed to move forward in reclaiming brownfields, and let them go to work – and the results have been remarkable.

In Elizabeth, New Jersey, a 166-acre landfill was transformed into the Jersey Gardens Mall, triggering more than $200 million in private investment, generating $5 million in new tax revenue, and creating 5,000 jobs.

In Holmdel, New Jersey, the site of an abandoned Dixie Cups plant will soon contain an office building, a 20-store retail center, and more than 250 adult and assisted living housing units.

But New Jersey is not, of course, alone. Each of you here is testament to that fact. In cities like East Palo Alto, New Bedford, Des Moines and Medford – whose mayors are all here – and in two dozen other places, our Brownfields Showcase Communities are showing that environmental protection and economic development go hand-in-hand.

In fact, to date, EPA has helped leverage more than $3.2 billion in economic development and has generated more than 12,000 jobs at more than 2,500 brownfield sites across the country. But thousands more sites remain to be reclaimed. Brownfield success stories are too often the exception. We need to make them the rule.

I am pleased to report that and we are closer this year than ever to passing the federal legislation we so clearly need – and that President Bush called for during the campaign last year.

As you know better than most, there are still too many abandoned gas stations, vacant manufacturing facilities, and other deteriorating sites that scar our communities and stunt their futures by denying them the possibility of productive use. Only through brownfields legislation can we fully unleash the potential these sites have.

These sites are waiting to contribute to the prosperity of the towns in which they are located by improving the tax base and providing jobs. They are available to prevent the spread of sprawl, by providing locations in places that already have the infrastructure needed to support growth. And they are ready to enrich the lives of their communities in other ways, maybe as a rec facility or a ballfield.

Hiding under the scars of every brownfield in America is, perhaps, a future doctor’s office, or neighborhood store, or community park. It’s time to turn these brownfields into fields of dreams.

I want to take just a minute to share with you what principles the President and I believe that brownfields legislation should include.

It should provide redevelopers with protection from federal Superfund liability.

It should provide the states with the resources and authority they need to run their own brownfields programs while ensuring that the cleanups they oversee are fully protective of human health and the environment.

It should allow EPA to work with the states to ensure they use high, but flexible cleanup standards, while reserving EPA’s ability to enforce those standards when necessary.

It should streamline the federal brownfields grant process and provide maximum flexibility for the use of those grants and it should focus additional research and development efforts on finding new brownfields cleanup technologies and techniques.

Finally, the brownfields tax incentive should be made a permanent part of the tax code.

Based on these principles, brownfields legislation will give you and your counterparts across America the tools needed to get the job done. It will remove barriers that have been put in the way. It will expand the partnership we already enjoy to your colleagues and counterparts in communities in every corner of America, giving every neighborhood the chance you have to transform their environmental eyesores into true community assets for the people who live and work near them.

I am pleased that brownfields legislation is moving through the Congress. In April, the Senate unanimously passed Senators Chafee and Smith’s brownfields bill. That was an enormous step forward. Now, we look forward to working with Chairman Gilmore and his colleagues in the House to send to the President’s desk the legislation he seeks.

I also do not believe that this legislation should be held hostage to Superfund reform. Such reform is necessary – but there’s no reason we cannot move brownfield legislation on a separate track. I hope we can count on your support in getting this done.

As head of the EPA, I’ve made passage of brownfields legislation a top priority. I have testified before Congress, I have met with numerous members of the House and Senate, and I have taken this message on the road to cities and states across America. When this legislation passes the Congress and the President signs it into law, we will see even more brownfields blossom all over America.

I hope you will share with your representatives in Congress your own support for broad brownfields legislation this year. I believe we can achieve the critical mass we need to enact this legislation this year – with your help. Because of your experiences you are among the most persuasive voices in the Nation for the need for brownfield legislation.

Please be certain that this Administration is committed to making brownfields not just a legacy of the past but a thing of the past. With your help, we can make this happen.

Thank you.