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EPA to help revitalize Montana brownfields


Three projects to assess and clean up contaminated properties in Montana communities and tribal lands have been awarded EPA Brownfields grants. These projects are among 294 efforts in 38 states, two territories and five tribal nations that will share more than $70 million in grants to help revitalize former industrial and commercial sites, turning them from problem properties to productive community use.

“By transforming thousands of blighted sites into engines of economic rebirth, EPA’s Brownfields program is proving to be one of the greatest environmental success stories of the past decade,” said Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “These grants build on the Bush Administration’s commitment of handing down a healthier, more prosperous future to the next generation of Americans.”

Brownfields are sites where expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. In January 2002, President Bush signed the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act, which authorizes annual funding for brownfields grants. The 2002 law expanded the definition of brownfields, so communities may now focus on mine-scarred lands or sites contaminated by petroleum or the manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs.
In Shelby, Mont., a $200,000 grant will help the City of Shelby remove and dispose of petroleum wastes at a former refinery site, paving the way for redevelopment. Cleanup of the Shelby Refinery will remove the threat to human health posed by petroleum wastes. A private concrete, sand, and gravel business hopes to relocate there once the site is clean. This facility will provide job opportunities, and generate construction and operation revenues.

In Elmo, Mont., the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation will receive $189,000 to clean up petroleum and heavy metals at the now vacant Elmo Cash Store, clearing the site for possible redevelopment as affordable housing or a business. About 4,500 of the 7,000 members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes reside on the rural Flathead Indian Reservation, just south of Glacier National Park. The Confederated Tribes have identified 122 brownfields on the reservation, including abandoned mine and mill sites. Contamination at the Elmo Cash Store, which is vacant and blighted, has reduced developer interest and prevented the construction of much-needed tribal housing or businesses. Cleanup will reduce exposure from hazardous substances and remove barriers to transforming the property into a tribal asset.

In northeastern Montana, the Great Northern Development Corporation will receive $200,000 to assess potentially contaminated properties in six rural counties, providing local governments with information to make decisions about reuse opportunities. The GNDC’s brownfields efforts will target Daniels, Garfield, McCone, Roosevelt, Sheridan, and Valley Counties -- including a federally designated Enterprise Community and the entire Fort Peck Sioux and Assiniboine Indian Reservation. There are more than 700 abandoned mine sites, and hundreds of leaking underground storage tanks within the area. Brownfields assessment will help to remove the largest roadblock to redevelopment, which is unknown environmental contamination. Brownfields redevelopment will increase and diversify the tax base, provide jobs, and improve the economic stability of the region.
This year, 202 applicants were selected to receive 294 assessment, revolving loan fund, and cleanup grants. The $70.7 total million will provide:

· 189 assessment grants totaling $36.8 million to be used to conduct site assessment and planning for eventual cleanup at one or more brownfields sites or as part of a community-wide effort.

· 92 cleanup grants totaling $17.9 million to provide funding for grant recipients to carry out cleanup activities at brownfields sites they own.

· 13 revolving loan fund grants totaling $16 million to provide funding for communities to capitalize a revolving loan fund and to provide subgrants to carry out cleanup activities at Brownfields sites. Revolving loan funds are generally used to provide low interest loans for brownfields cleanups.

The Brownfields program encourages redevelopment of America’s estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites. Since the beginning of the program, EPA has awarded 1,067 assessment grants totaling more than $262 million, 217 revolving loan fund grants totaling more than $201.7 million, and 336 cleanup grants totaling $61.3 million.

In addition to industrial and commercial redevelopment, brownfields approaches have included the conversion of industrial waterfronts to river-front parks, landfills to golf courses, rail corridors to recreational trails, and gas stations to housing. EPA’s brownfields assistance has leveraged more than $9.6 billion in cleanup and redevelopment, helped create more than 43,029 jobs and resulted in the assessment of more than 10,504 properties and the cleanup of 180 properties.


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