These guidelines are provided pursuant to Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance # 66.818. The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act (“Brownfields Law” or “the Law”, P.L. 107-118) requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish guidance to assist applicants in preparing proposals for grants to address brownfield sites. This law defines a brownfield site as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant,” as defined in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 §101(39), as amended (CERCLA). The law further defines the term “brownfield site” to include a site that “is contaminated by a controlled substance...; is contaminated by petroleum or a petroleum product excluded from the definition of ‘hazardous substance’...; is mine-scarred land.”
In the early 1990s, stakeholders expressed their concerns to EPA about the problems associated with brownfields across the country. More than 600,000 properties that were once used for industrial, manufacturing, or commercial uses were lying abandoned or underused due to the suspicion of hazardous substance contamination. Brownfield areas, particularly those in city centers, were contributing to blight and joblessness in surrounding communities. Unknown environmental liabilities were preventing communities, developers, and investors from restoring these properties to productive use and revitalizing impacted neighborhoods.
In 1994, EPA responded to the brownfield problem with an environmental protection approach that is locally based, encourages strong public-private partnerships, and promotes innovative and creative ways to assess, clean up, and redevelop brownfield sites. This approach empowers state, tribal, and local environmental and economic development officials to oversee brownfield activities, and encourages implementing local solutions to local problems. EPA also has provided funding to create local environmental job training programs to ensure that the economic benefits derived from brownfield revitalization efforts remain in local neighborhoods.