Green Building  

The EPA's Brownfield Revolution

The Environmental Protection Agency has given out millions to renovate unused Brownfield sites
 New Orleans Mayor Nagin accepting Brownfield grants  Auburn officials accepting $200,000 Brownfield grant  Brownfield sites are closed due to pollution  Brownfield properties near San Francisco Bay  A Brownfield site in Duwamish

There is more to green building than just LEED Certification or installing solar panels on existing buildings. All over the country there are thousands of Brownfield sites, structures and locations that are no longer in use due to concerns over pollution.

City planners in the US define a Brownfield site as any location that was previously used for industrial or commercial purposes that is now contaminated by low concentrations of pollution or other potentially hazardous substances and is no longer in use. Brownfields have the potential to be re-used if they are cleaned up following federal regulations.

Defining a Brownfield

The federal definition of a Brownfield site, according to the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act of 2002 (H.R. 2869), is “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”

Superfund sites, land that is too heavily contaminated with high concentrations of pollution and waste, do not fall under the Brownfield classification. Mothballed Brownfields occur when a property’s owner refuses to transfer or clean up their location for reuse.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Mission

Over the last two decades, the US government has made a point of pursuing Brownfield revitalization projects all over the country.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been aggressively giving out grants to states all over the US for the renovation or redevelopment of these Brownfield sites in order to make them functional pieces of property once again.

So far the EPA has awarded $76 million worth of federal grants for Brownfield renovation projects in 40 states throughout the US.

According to the EPA, reinvesting in Brownfield properties helps protect the environment, raises nearby property values and helps the US get the most out of its land rather than letting whole patches of the country go to waste. If abandoned properties and structures are left to rot, they can reduce surrounding property values significantly and if pollution is left unchecked it can potentially spread to nearby areas.

The EPA believes that the redevelopment of these Brownfield sites can spur other forms of development and economic growth in the local community, creating more jobs for the locals and improving their property values so that everyone can prosper.

According to a study by the EPA Brownfield Program, residential property values go up by an average of two to three percent once a nearby Brownfield property is assessed and cleaned up, and crime rates tend to go down in local communities as well.

The study goes even further to say that properties within a one mile radius of a renovated Brownfield site can increase in overall property value by up to $0.5 to $1.5 million.

Federal Grants

Since the 1990s when the Clinton Administration promoted land redevelopment and revitalization, the EPA has given out $937 million worth in grants to clean up more than 600 existing structures.

EPA officials estimate that these projects also sparked a spending spree of $16.3 billion in redevelopment spending by both the private sector and government agencies, leading to even more job creation and economic prosperity.

The EPA provides several different types of grants and loan programs, technical assistance and other funding opportunities in relation to Brownfield revitalization projects around the US:


  • Area-Wide Planning Pilot Program
    Once the EPA has settled on a grant recipient, it will create an area-wide plan for the assessment, cleanup and reuse of Brownfields properties to help promote area-wide revitalization.
  • Assessment Grants
    Provide funding for taking inventory, conducting planning and promoting community involvement related to Brownfield sites.
  • Cleanup Grants
    Provide funding for a grant recipient to carry out cleanup activities at Brownfield sites.
  • Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Grants
    Designed to provide funding to eligible organizations, including nonprofits, to recruit and train low-income and minority residents of the surrounding areas with the skills needed to secure full-time employment in the assessment and cleanup work taking place in their communities.
  • Revolving Loan Fund Grants
    Enable States and smaller political organizations to make low interest loans for cleanup activities at Brownfields properties.
  • Training, Research, and Technical Assistance Grants
    Provide funding to eligible organizations to provide training, research, and technical assistance to potential employees for Brownfield projects.
  • Targeted Brownfield Assessments
    Help states, tribes, and municipalities minimize the uncertainties of contamination often associated with Brownfields.

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