Rouzer Statement from Hearing on Superfund and Brownfields Programs
Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Ranking Member David Rouzer (R-NC) from today’s hearing entitled, “Promoting Economic and Community Redevelopment and Environmental Justice in the Revitalization and Reuse of Contaminated Properties”:
Thank you, Chair Napolitano. I appreciate you holding this hearing, and I would also like to thank our witnesses for being here today.
Today’s hearing will examine contaminated properties known as “brownfields,” the tools the Environmental Protection Agency has to address them, and what we hope to accomplish with them. There are hundreds of thousands of brownfield sites in America, in both rural and urban areas. They are often prime locations for redevelopment—except for the fact that the land may have some contamination. Brownfields drive down property values, decrease tax revenues, and are a blight on many of our cities and towns.
In the past, few wanted to invest in cleaning up these sites because they feared liability. As a result, many developers turned to undeveloped green spaces for new investments. It became clear that it made good economic and environmental sense to remove legal roadblocks, and support state, local, and private efforts to clean up and redevelop brownfields.
Through this committee’s efforts, the “Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act” became law in early 2002, which the Committee updated in 2018 with the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act. The law provided legislative authority for the Brownfields Program, including grants for site assessments and cleanup. The law also clarified liability issues and helped provide greater protections for those who have had no history with contamination of the brownfields property and want to clean up and redevelop them.
Turning brownfields back into usable property involves the efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency, state and local governments, developers, and non-governmental organizations.
The Brownfields Program codified in 2002 is itself built on another pivotal environmental law, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, known by its acronym “CERCLA” but is also commonly referred to as “Superfund.”
Passed by Congress in 1980, Superfund provides the basis for federally overseen cleanup of environmentally damaged sites. In addition to funding cleanup efforts, the program provides a liability framework that has enabled needed environmental remediation to get done.
I look forward to the testimony today to learn how to improve the Brownfields and Superfund Programs and specifically how they affect the local economies of communities and the lives of the people who live in and near them.
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