Buffalo, NY – Standing with local leaders at Niagara Transformer Corporation, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Congressman Brian Higgins announced a new bipartisan effort to reauthorize and improve programs to cleanup and rebuild on brownfield sites. The Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development (Build) Act, would jumpstart development efforts and provide additional resources and for sites in need of redevelopment. The measure would allow local municipalities and non-profit organizations access to more money, tools and resources as they work toward project completion as well as help to create and sustain jobs.
Congressional authorization for the Brownfield program lapsed at the end of 2006, leaving economic development opportunities to fall by the wayside.
“The Niagara Transformer site is ripe with opportunity to help our economy grow,” Senator Gillibrand said. “This strong, bipartisan bill can unlock new investments to develop brownfield sites into usable spaces that can attract new businesses, support new jobs, and make more New York communities a great place to live, work and raise a family.”
“Remediating brownfields is not only good for our environment, but also improves communities by opening up once toxic land for economic development,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “From Cheektowaga to our Outer Harbor, Western New York is remaking itself from a community that is old and industrial to one that is new and exciting. This legislation would help communities like ours continue with this effort by recognizing the great value in restoring and repurposing former brownfields.”
“When Niagara Transformer was looking to build a new state of the art transformer manufacturing plant to meet the growing demand for its products, our ability to utilize the brownfield redevelopment program factored prominently in our ultimate choice for locating the new plant,” said Niagara Transformer Corporation President John Darby. “The program’s tax credits have been beneficial to the company, and the redevelopment of the site has benefited Cheektowaga, New York State, and numerous local trades by turning a vacant parcel of land into a $15 million dollar new plant. The program has been efficient and effective from my point of view and should be a model of how government and the private sector can work together to benefit the entire community, grow jobs, and build investment for many years to come.”
“It is absolutely critical that we provide businesses in Buffalo and Western New York with the tools and resources they need to grow and create new jobs,” said New York State Senator Tim Kennedy. “We have seen the success of brownfields programs right here at Cheektowaga’s Niagara Transformer Site. With help from the program, this location has been cleaned up and is now ready for redevelopment. I want to thank Senator Gillibrand for her support of this vital bill. With the BUILD ACT, local communities in Western New York will have an even greater opportunity to re-energize brownfields that now hold back progress.”
“The Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act of 2013 provides important enhancements that will mean more success with the remediation and revitalization of stagnant properties. Development of these properties is vital to communities,” said Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Mary Holtz. “In Cheektowaga, Niagara Transformer is a perfect example of what can be accomplished by reclaiming formerly contaminated land.”
While New York helped power the country through the industrial revolution, large manufacturers left behind contaminated land where they factories once stood. These abandoned sites – brownfields – must be cleaned up before new development can begin. There are between 450,000 and one million abandoned and contaminated sites in the United States, according to the Government Acceptability Office (GAO). Brownfield sites range in size from a half an acre to tens of acres that are located in both urban and rural areas. The redevelopment of these sites have proven to be beneficial to communities as they provide a boost to the economy through private investment and business development, job creation, community development and overall quality of life in the area.
The Niagara Transformer site is currently undergoing an expansion onto a brownfield site adjacent to its headquarters. Site remediation was completed in 2010 through the Brownfields program, in partnership with the Town of Cheektowaga, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. A family-owned business established in 1933, Niagara Transformer is recognized worldwide as a supplier of custom-designed transformers designed to withstand severe weather conditions. Through the Brownfields program, this company was able to keep their business in Western New York. Had it not been for the benefits of this program, the company may have been forced to relocate out of state. There are several hundred brownfields throughout the Buffalo-Niagara region, many along the waterfront, offering unique opportunities for redevelopment.
The BUILD Act builds on previously existing Brownfield initiatives by expanding the reach of these efforts and increasing the amount of funds applicants can request. Specifically, the legislation:
- Recognizes that the cost of cleaning up past contamination is a barrier to bringing brownfield sites back into the market by increasing the funding ceiling for cleanup grants and allowing funds to be used for administrative costs.
- Allows the Environmental Protection Agency to award multipurpose grants that will speed redevelopment by streamlining and increasing certainty on the cleanup process. This update recognizes that the redevelopment process is a complex, multistep effort that can include site inventory, characterization, assessment, planning, or remediation for one or more brownfields site through one grant. Securing upfront funding for the various phases of brownfields redevelopment—instead of having to seek funding for the different phases of the project—allows a community to work more closely with a developer to turn blighted properties into community assets.
- Expands eligibility for site assessment grants to non-profit organizations. Currently, non-profits and community-based organizations are eligible for cleanup grants but not assessment grants. Expanding eligibility will better position communities since these non-profits are often in the best position to identify or prioritize sites and initiate redevelopment.
- Allows local governments to apply for site assessment grants for properties that were acquired by a community before the creation of the brownfields program. This provision of the BUILD Act would allow more brownfields to be evaluated for contamination without eliminating the local government’s liability to clean up the site.
- Incorporates elements of Senator Gillibrand’s Waterfront Brownfields Revitalization Act by identifying opportunities for redevelopment of abandoned, idled or underused industrial properties on waterfronts.
- Makes clean energy projects at brownfield sites eligible for funding, including any facility that generates renewable electricity from wind, solar or geothermal.