July 24, 2013
As prepared for delivery:
Mr. Chairman, thank you for hosting this important hearing. I think we can all agree here that the Brownfields program has had many tremendous success stories over the years. Many communities have old buildings that have been abandoned for years, and often this is the result of some sort of contamination – whether it’s mold, asbestos, or lead paint. The Brownfields Program provides funding to help clean up these buildings so they can be redeveloped and used for productive purposes.
In Oklahoma, we’ve been able to use it to help pay for the cleanup of postindustrial sites near downtown Tulsa so that the new BOK Center arena could be built. In Oklahoma City, we’ve used the program to clean up the historic Skirvin hotel. The Skirvin had been plagued by mold and contaminants, leaving it abandoned for years. Today, thanks to the Brownfields program, the hotel is one of the nicest in downtown Oklahoma City, and it’s a popular rest stop for many NBA teams who come to town to get beat by the Thunder.
But not all of Oklahoma has been able to take advantage of the program in the same way as the larger cities have, and the federal program could do a better job of building on the successes of similar state driven programs. That is why I am proud to be one of the primary sponsors of the Brownfields reauthorization bill. This issue was very important to Senator Lautenberg, and I’m glad that we are continuing to work on this bipartisan bill. It’s an important component of his legacy.
The BUILD Act makes a good program even better. Among other things, the bill provides a funding set-aside so states can enhance their own cleanup programs to supplement the federally run program. This will help ensure that the highest priority projects in a state receive the funding they need.
The bill also encourages the use of the Brownfields program in small communities, who currently don’t use it very much. In Oklahoma, as is the case in many states, there are small towns that have abandoned gas stations, dry cleaners, and other contaminated facilities that need to be cleaned up. But most of these towns don’t have the resources or know-how to apply for a Brownfields grant. To help with this, the bill establishes a technical assistance grant for towns under 15,000 people. With this grant, EPA and state environmental quality offices will be able to help small communities work through the Brownfields process so they can make use of the program and redevelop these contaminated sites.
These are just a few of the changes that will be made by the bill, and I look forward to moving it through the Committee.