By David A. Mann
Legislative language that would protect developers from environmental liabilities at the River Ridge Commerce Center has been included in the FY13 National Defense Authorization Act.
Originally, that language was part of a resolution authored by Indiana Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind. During a press conference Monday afternoon, Young said the action "will in the coming years bring more jobs to the area.
"The fact that the House Armed Services committee has included this legislation in the NDAA greatly increases the likelihood that this will become law," Young said. "River Ridge may be our biggest opportunity for economic growth and job creation in the area and I'm happy to help move that opportunity one step closer to reality."
Businesses which redevelop military installations closed under the guidelines of the Base Realignment and Closure process are given protection from legal action and costs associated with the release of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants used in Department of Defense activities. However, the old Indiana Army Ammunition Plant -- part of which is now River Ridge -- was not closed under those guidelines years ago.
The legislation does not change any environmental restrictions and the Army Corps of Engineers still needs to clean up the site before the land is transferred. However, the language provides protection for businesses in the event that something was missed by the Department of Defense. If passed, the department would assume responsibility for missed contamination.
Young said the language makes sure the old INAAP land gets the same treatment as other closed facilities receive. A Congressional Budget Office review of the legislation noted that it will result in an insignificant amount of direct spending by the department. Without any specific figures, Young said the primary cost of the legislation would be administrative in nature, including a study of the land by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. That review would be done in house by the office, making the cost marginal, Young said.
"The upside is huge."
Executive Director Jerry Acy said the River Ridge Development Authority has paid about $1 million in insurance costs in the last 10 years to cover the environmental liability. If it passes in its current form -- a full house vote is expected in early May -- those costs should decrease, he said.
"This indemnification is something that we've been working on for several years," Acy said.
The U.S. Army still has 2,700 acres of land to transfer to River Ridge, which in turn sells to developers. Of that 1,500 acres still need to be decontaminated.