A Senate Bill to Clean up Brownfields Also Needs a Clean-Up

Washington, DC, April 23, 2001—As the Senate prepares to debate a brownfields bill, an adjunct scholar with the Competitive Enterprise Institute says it has some serious flaws.

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In a report released today, Dana Joel Gattuso points out the weaknesses in Senate bill 350, sponsored by Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI). Brownfields are low-risk abandoned waste sites that fall under the jurisdiction of states to clean up. However, federal policy over the last several years has created roadblocks in those cleanup efforts, through the threat of federal intervention and by providing grants to states only if they follow certain EPA requirements. Supporters of Senate bill 350 claim the measure will limit the EPA’s ability to override state cleanup efforts and provide some needed liability reform. But an analysis by Ms. Gattuso reveals that it won’t meet those goals.


Ms. Gattuso’s report says the bill fails to provide “finality.” Finality is the essential commitment that, once a cleanup meets the state’s approval and required standards, neither federal, state, nor local authorities will renege on their agreement with private parties by imposing additional cleanup standards. “Without providing developers the needed assurance of ‘finality,’ the risks to involved parties are simply too high to warrant their interest in the brownfields-cleanup project,” said Gattuso. “Unless parties involved in the cleanup are convinced that the federal government will not override state programs, existing brownfields will continue to lie abandoned.” Gattuso says.


In addition, the legislation would essentially set federal standards for brownfield cleanups by tying regulations to grants. “Federal funding should not be used as a means for mandating federal standards and approaches,” said Gattuso. In fact, she continues, “state programs have been successful largely because they have abandoned the federal government’s standards and ‘stick’ approaches, opting for innovative methods that rely on incentives and flexibility.”



Ms. Gattuso recently testified about the brownfields issue before the House Republican Conference. She is also the author of the CEI report Revitalizing Urban America: Cleaning up the Brownfields, published in July 2000.  


CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. To obtain a copy of Ms. Gattuso’s newly-released report on Senate bill 350 and/or to set up an interview, please contact the media relations department at 202.331.1010 or [email protected].