US President Bush signs Environmental law

On 11 January, US President George W Bush signed a new law designed to encourage the cleanup of brownfield sites into the country’s legislation.

According to the US government, the country’s current brownfield regulation, the Superfund programme, renders companies situated on contaminated sites to be held liable for the cost of cleanup whether they caused the contamination or not, creating a strong incentive for businesses to avoid redeveloping the US’s brownfields, of which there are an estimated 0.5-1 million.

However, the new Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalisation Act is designed to provide liability protection for prospective purchasers, contiguous property owners, and innocent landowners. The legislation also authorises increased funding for state and local programmes that assess and clean up contaminated land.

The funds available for brownfield cleanup through the EPA have now been doubled to US$200 million, and US$25 million will also be available through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

According to the Whitehouse, this new legislation will also remove environmental hazards from communities, reduce development on pristine open space and farmland, create jobs, and return productive property to local tax rolls.

President Bush has been calling for reform to brownfield legislation in the US since April 2000 during his successful presidential election campaign (see related story).

“We’ve got a responsibility of making sure every child is educated, and that the environment in which our children grow up is healthy and clean,” Bush said at the signing of the act. “By one estimate, for every acre of redeveloped brownfields we save four and a half acres of open space.”

“Many communities and entrepreneurs have sought to redevelop brownfields,” said Bush. “Often they could not, either because of excessive regulation or because of the fear of endless litigation. As a consequence, small businesses and other employers have located elsewhere – pushing development further and further outward, taking jobs with them, and leaving cities empty.”

The EPA is pleased with the new act. “This bill will give communities all across the country the tools they need to reclaim and restore thousands of brownfields – abandoned properties that are an economic and environmental drain on the neighborhoods in which they are located,” said Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman.

The signing took place at a newly decontaminated brownfield site in Pennsylvania, the reason being, said Bush, because the state has been on the forefront of brownfield legislation. However, according to the New York Times the location of the signing may be more due to the fact that Pennsylvania is currently being wooed by Bush because it was a marginal state in the 2001 presidential election.

The bill passed through Congress in December with unanimous support.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie