21 Dec 2001 Congress Passes Environmental Legislation to Benefit Blighted Inner-City Communities
Congressional approval of and White House support for legislation that will help clean up areas of urban blight is being hailed by members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 as an environmental achievement that will benefit inner-city minorities.
On December 20, both chambers of Congress passed legislation to raise annual government spending on the rehabilitation of "brownfields" – abandoned and/or contaminated industrial sites – and safeguard developers from federal penalties related to the pollution caused by previous owners. It is called "the most important environmental action of the 107th Congress" by The Washington Post.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman said, "Brownfields is exactly the kind of program that can bring new investment into a local economy."
The legislation will create a public record of the estimated 450,000 industrial and commercial sites that can be designated as brownfields. It will also allocate $50 million to state and local governments to improve clean-up efforts. President George W. Bush, who campaigned on this issue in 2000, is expected to sign the bill.
Cleaning up previously useless areas that remained vacant because developers were afraid of inheriting the blame for the environmental mistakes made by past owners is a key step to revitalizing inner-city minority communities. Project 21 research associate Syd Gernstein points out in an upcoming New Visions Commentary that turning brownfields into viable and productive properties helps create jobs and returns tax dollars to cities. "Brownfield redevelopment projects sound almost too good to be true," said Gernstein. "After all, few commercial projects are capable of simultaneously providing the natural conservation that those with an eye to the environment crave while providing the economic stimulation that those with an eye on the bottom line believe is necessary. The more legal and regulatory hurdles to brownfield redevelopment that continue to fall, the more cities will be able to enjoy these projects that benefit everyone."
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.