Senator Tom Udall Bill to Reclaim Brownfields Passes Committee

U.S. Senator Tom Udall welcomed passage in the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) of his bill to modernize the Brownfields Program, which has helped communities in New Mexico and across the country to revitalize blighted neighborhoods and create prospering developments. The bill, the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act, received bipartisan support and now goes to the full Senate for approval.

“From Albuquerque’s Sawmill neighborhood to the Santa Fe Railyard and Route 66 – New Mexico communities have converted liabilities into vibrant developments through the Brownfields Program,” Udall said. “By updating the program, we can keep up the great work in New Mexico and throughout the country, and today’s bipartisan vote in committee is a great step toward helping more communities clean up neighborhoods and spearhead economic development.”

The Brownfields Program, which is run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, drives economic growth by providing the funds and technical assistance to assess and clean up contaminated property sites for redevelopment.

Udall has championed the bill in his position as chairman of the EPW Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health. Last July, he invited Bernalillo County Commission Vice Chairwoman Debbie O’Malley to testify on how the brownfields program has been used in the Albuquerque area. O’Malley testified about Albuquerque’s Sawmill neighborhood, where a 27-acre particle-board manufacturing site was transformed through the program into affordable housing.

In addition to the Sawmill neighborhood and the Santa Fe Railyard, other New Mexico brownfields success stories include the Hotel Andaluz, the Sandoval County Judicial Complex, the Old Albuquerque High School, and the Luna Lodge on Route 66.

Udall’s BUILD Act would improve key elements of the program by increasing the limit for cleanup grants and expanding eligibility for certain publicly owned sites and nonprofit organizations.

Redeveloping contaminated properties creates jobs, enhances environmental quality, boosts local and state tax revenues, and according to EPA, has the potential to increase neighborhood property values between 5 and 13 percent.

As of October 2013, EPA’s Brownfields Program has assessed 20,678 properties, completed 896 cleanups, and leveraged 90,363 jobs and $20.3 billion in funding since the program’s inception in 1995. Further, EPA has found that approximately $18 is leveraged for each dollar the Brownfield Program spends.