David Ganje: An opportunity for tribes to clean up their homelands

David Ganje

Brownfields: An opportunity often missed by Tribes and developers
By David Ganje
For The Native Sun News Today

The Environmental Protection Agency defines a brownfield as "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."

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) mandated that the purchasers of property are liable for any contamination on this property regardless of when they acquired a site. However, CERCLA also created a defense known as the “innocent landowner defense” that can only be used if “appropriate due diligence” was conducted prior to the acquisition of the property. Appropriate due diligence has been exercised if an environmental site assessment (ESA), a thorough investigation of a sites current and previous owners, has been prepared.

ESA’s have an average cost of about $4,000 for a small business acquisition and can vary depending on variety of factors specific to the job. The typical businesses that leave behind brownfields include gas stations, dry cleaners, railroads, oil refineries, liquid / chemical storage facilities, and steel / heavy manufacturing plants. Typical hazardous materials they leave behind include hydrocarbons, solvents, pesticides, heavy metals such as lead, and asbestos.

What is so dangerous about leaving these brownfields alone? Many of these brownfields are abandon commercial properties and tend to be an eyesore in the community. Not only can this lead to decreased property values in surrounding neighborhoods but the property can also pose serious health risks for new tenant and their neighbors.

The most popular type of brownfield grant the EPA provides is the Assessment Grant. Assessment grants provide funding for a grant recipient to perform ESA’s and conduct planning and community involvement related to brownfields sites.

Once a brownfield has been identified the EPA provide two options for cleanup, Revolving Loan Fund Grants and Cleanup Grants. The purpose of revolving loan fund grants is to enable states, political subdivisions, and Indian tribes to make low interest loans to carryout cleanup activities at brownfields properties. Cleanup grants provide funding for a grant recipient to carry out cleanup activities at brownfields sites.

Since the cost of cleanup is considerable the grants may provide several hundred thousand dollars towards the cost of cleanup. This money comes with strings attached of course. Among other things, the costs are shared with the property owner, by at least 20%, and the brownfield site must be cleaned up within a three-year period.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Brownfields: An opportunity often missed by Tribes and developers

(David Ganje practices law in the area of natural resources, environmental and commercial law. His website is Lexenergy.net)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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