Cleaning Up Brownfields [Commentary]

August 3, 2006

In environmental circles, the term “brownfield” is used quite often, but the average Connecticut citizen probably is not quite sure what exactly constitutes a brownfield. In short, a brownfield is any economically underutilized parcel of land that sits unused due to complications with contamination, blight, or other environmental issues.

In New Haven County alone there are thirty-two sites that have been designated as brownfields. Not only are brownfields eyesores for state resides and drains on local property values, but, most critically, they discourage business development in those or surrounding areas.

The fear of environmental liabilities has deterred investors from purchasing and redeveloping brownfields in Connecticut. However, Governor M. Jodi Rell, with the urging of the legislature, has recognized the problems resulting from brownfields in Connecticut and has signed into law a bill that addresses the issue.

The bill sets up an office within the Department of Economic and Community Development called the Office of Brownfield Remediation and Development which will serves as a resource for property owners and potential property owners to comply with state and federal clean up requirements. In addition, the new law provides several incentives, financial and otherwise, for businesses or organizations that cleans up the land and protects them from liability if they acquire a contaminated site from a town or its developments agency.

This new law is certainly not the only step the legislation and Governor Rell will take to clean up and remediate brownfields in Connecticut. A task force whose aim to develop a variety of long-term solutions for cleaning up and redeveloping brownfields has been created which report its findings to the General Assembly’s Environment and Commerce committees by January 1, 2007, just before the state of the next legislative session. Their recommendations certainly will be the starting point for even more environmentally-friendly legislation aimed at brownfields.

It’s important to note that not only are we looking to expand businesses and create jobs in the state with this legislation, we are looking at protecting our state’s farmland and open space. There is only a limited amount of space available in the state’s major cities for business development. It is certainly better to look at redeveloping existing sites than developing on top of farmland or open space.

To learn more about brownfields, check out www.ctbrownfields.com or search the State Department of Economic and Community Development website, www.ct.gov/ecd for “brownfields.” If you have any additional questions, please feel free to call me toll-free at 1(800) 841-1421 or e-mail at [email protected] I look forward to hearing from you.