Brownfields & Land Revitalization Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a brownfield?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), brownfields are abandoned, idle or underutilized real properties, where the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.
See EPA’s Brownfields and Land Revitalization website at http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/overview/glossary.htm.
- Where are brownfields typically located?
Brownfield sites can exist in most urban communities and commercial and industrial rural area across the nation where hazardous materials were used. Typically these are located in older commercial and industrial areas.
- What are common examples of brownfield properties?
Common examples of brownfield properties include older or abandoned gas stations and automobile service shops, dry cleaners, junkyards, former or antiquated industrial/manufacturing facilities, railroads and rail lines, and closed military bases. However brownfields can include mine-scarred lands, older buildings that contain asbestos and lead based paint, and drug labs.
- What are the benefits of brownfields redevelopment?
Both public agencies and the private sector benefit from revitalizing brownfields properties. By clearing the properties for reuse, the development results in job creation or expansion, increased tax revenue, neighborhood revitalization, or creates open space including parks.
- What government oversight agencies can become involved in brownfields cleanups?
Several agencies, including the State Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCBs), can be involved with overseeing a brownfield cleanup. Agency determination is based upon the nature of the release and the contaminated media. Most oversight agencies become involved through a voluntary based program following the initial assessment phase when a problem has been identified. By agreeing to address the contaminants on these sites under government agency oversight, the developer can benefit from the agency’s expertise as well as take advantage of grant programs offering financial assistance.
Since there is often a complex web of potential agency involvement, it is useful to contact the CALED Brownfields Committee, a qualified legal professional, regional DTSC or RWQCB offices, and/or your local city or county government office to determine which agencies may have jurisdiction over your brownfield site.
- Is there grant funding available to assist in addressing brownfield properties?
Yes, there are several grant programs and technical assistance programs available to communities. Several brownfield grants are administered by the State Water Board, the DTSC and the EPA. For example, the State Water Resources Control Board administers the Leaking Underground Fuel Tank (“LUFT”) Fund to address leaking tanks. Further information regarding available grant funding is available on EPA, DTSC and RWQCB websites. The CALED Brownfields Committee is also available to assist you with identifying potential grant funding.
- Are there other financing options for addressing brownfields, in addition to grant funding?
Yes, there are other options. One option is to seek reimbursement from Potentially Responsible Parties (“PRPs”) that contributed in some way to the contamination of the brownfield, who in turn may be able to use their historic liability insurance to fund much of the investigation and clean up. Additionally, recent state legislative initiatives have added important new brownfield cost recovery and funding tools. A qualified attorney will be able to provide further information about strategies to investigate and/or clean up a brownfield, and possible sources of funding to pay for such efforts.
- Who do I contact for more information about brownfields acquisition and redevelopment?
It is advisable to consult with legal counsel regarding acquisition and redevelopment of a brownfield site. Qualified counsel can assist you in communicating with the appropriate agencies, drafting necessary agreements, obtaining liability immunities and recovering remediation costs from other responsible parties. You may also need to seek the assistance of a qualified environmental consultant for the purpose of investigating the property and determining the scope of contamination, and for the purpose of preparing technical reports to present to the lead agencies. The CALED Brownfields Committee is available to assist you with identifying qualified professionals in these fields, and to provide further technical assistance.
 e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 9601