By: Barry N. Breen, Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Land and Emergency Management.
We are proud of the environmental and economic accomplishments made by local communities who use EPA resources provided through our Brownfields program to clean up and reuse brownfield sites. These communities demonstrate that a commitment to protecting public health, repurposing land, and strengthening local economies can be accomplished together.
Through our Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program, we help communities tackle environmental challenges to spur their local economic growth. Recipients of RLF grants capitalize a revolving loan fund to provide low-interest loans and sub-grants to clean up brownfield sites. When loans are repaid, the repayment is returned into the fund and subsequently lent to other borrowers, providing an ongoing source of capital. These and other EPA brownfields grants leverage additional resources needed to clean up and redevelop brownfields.
So many projects, past and present, demonstrate that environmental improvement works hand-in-hand with economic development. One outstanding example can be found in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The “Steelyard” redevelopment is situated on a historic Oklahoma City oil field on the east side of Bricktown. The 5-acre site was contaminated by a former metal manufacturing facility and past drilling and storage activities. Countless underground structures were found during cleanup including underground storage tanks, historic oil wells, and piping. The City of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Corporation Commission and EPA all partnered to assist this complicated redevelopment. The City of Oklahoma City’s Brownfield RLF program loaned $1,300,000 to the project for environmental remediation and the remainder of the cleanup was paid for with private equity. It will be home to a mixed-use complex with retail shops on the first floor and housing above. It will offer 30 affordable housing units out of a total of 250 units in downtown Oklahoma City and will start leasing in summer of 2017.
West of this property, the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority (OCURA) owned a 1.38 acre site that had the same environmental problem and underwent a cleanup simultaneously with the Steelyard apartments. The City of Oklahoma City provided a $200,000 sub-grant to clean up the site. OCURA was then able to do an RFP for site redevelopment. The site is currently being redeveloped into two new hotels, the AC Hotel and a Hyatt place that will create new jobs and open in 2017.
East of this property, the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority (OCURA) owns a 1.83 acre development. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality awarded a $350,000 sub-grant and waived oversight costs for the cleanup of the project. Once the Steelyard apartments are complete, this property will be available for expansion of the apartment complex.
Projects like these demonstrate the value of our Brownfields program in communities across the country. Since the beginning of our Brownfields program in 1995, cumulative brownfield program investments across the country have leveraged more than $24 billion from a variety of public and private sources for cleanup and redevelopment activities and more than 124,759 jobs. On average, for every one EPA Brownfields dollar provided, $16.11 is leveraged, and on average, 8.5 jobs are leveraged per $100,000 of EPA brownfields funds expended on assessment, cleanup, and revolving loan fund cooperative agreements.
A study has shown that when brownfields are addressed, nearby property values within a 1.24-mile radius can increase 5-15.2 percent. Another study analyzing data near 48 brownfields found that an estimated $29 to $97 million in additional tax revenue is generated for local governments in a single year after cleanup. This is 2 to 7 times more than the $12.4 million EPA contributed to the cleanup of those brownfields.
We are proud of local communities’ accomplishments achieved by using our Brownfields program resources. We plan to continue to work with communities to help them clean up and reuse their brownfield sites; to protect public health, revitalize land and strengthen the economy.