Target: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Goal: Prevent serious environmental damage by strengthening inadequate abandoned land program.
In 1999, a fire erupted in an abandoned textile facility in Sprague, Connecticut. The flames spread materials containing asbestos extensively; samples found it at concentrations as high as 60%. This unfortunate incident is indicative of the dangers that can occur at sites known as brownfields. To clarify, a brownfield is defined as “a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” In 1995, the U.S. EPA initiated a program to tackle this issue. The agency states that it has received $14 billion in brownfield clean-up and redevelopment funding and created approximately 60,917 jobs. Although the program seems effective, an intensive study done by the The Center for Public Integrity in 2012 concludes that it is inadequate. Among several things, bureaucratic red tape and a lack of data are preventing the improvement of abandoned lands that continue to deface communities across the country.
In its assessment, the Center concluded that the program has fallen short due to “limited funds, a lack of federal oversight, seemingly endless waits for approvals and dense bureaucratic processes.” As a result, poor and smaller communities are less likely to receive funding to improve brownfields in comparison to rich and middle-class neighborhoods. Furthermore, according to the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, the EPA’s database is “riddled with errors and omissions”. Critics claim that the agency does not really know “how many of these abandoned properties across the country exist, where they are, or how many have been cleaned up.” Some even argue that the EPA does not verify that the work on brownfields was completed successfully.
It is anticipated that “hundreds of thousands of abandoned and polluted properties have not been treated properly.” By signing this petition, you are demanding that the EPA improve its brownfields program through increased funding, heightened oversight, improved data collection, and less arduous approval processes. These potentially polluted sites do have negative consequences; the longer we do nothing, the greater the possibility that local communities are harmed.
Dear Environmental Protection Agency,
Brownfields are a blight upon our national landscape; these potentially contaminated sites continue to threaten our local communities and environment. In 1995, you initiated a program to tackle this issue. Although it has experienced some success, critics have concluded that it is inadequate. Among several things, bureaucratic red tape and a lack of data are preventing improvement of abandoned lands that continue to deface communities across the country.
As you have stated on the program’s webpage, cleaning up and reinvesting in these brownfields increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land, and both improves and protects the environment. Clearly, the revitalization of brownfields does more than prevent environmental harm; it also has positive economic benefits.
It is predicted that hundreds of thousands of abandoned and polluted properties have not been treated properly. I am urging you to improve your brownfields program through increased funding, heightened oversight, improved data collection, and less arduous approval processes. These abandoned sites are hazardous to the health and safety of surrounding communities; the longer we do nothing, the greater the possibility that environmental damage will occur.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Petr Vilgus via Wikimedia Commons