Because of the threat of contamination, coupled with liability concerns, many developers and lenders have had a hands-off approach to brownfields. Redeveloping brownfields can become more expensive than unused "greenfields" and investors are sometimes reluctant to lend money for a site that can be greatly devalued, potentially very expensive to remediate and may create liability issues for new owners for previous environmental contamination.
Congress should reauthorize the EPA brownfields program, and expand the scope of eligible brownfields grant recipients; fund technical assistance grants to small communities and rural areas; and provide multi-purpose grants to tackle more complex sites, as have been proposed in bipartisan, bicameral legislation.
The brownfields program’s authorization technically expired in 2006, but every year Congress has appropriated funds to keep the program in existence, albeit at declining levels. In 2017, legislation in the House (H.R. 3017) passed with broad, bipartisan support. Similar legislation is being considered in the Senate (S. 822). Both bills would reauthorize the program while improving it and expanding its scope.