Gov. Peter Shumlin, EPA New England Brownfields Director Carol Tucker and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, along with representatives from Vermont's congressional delegation, launched a new program today that will advance the redevelopment of brownfields, former industrial or commercial properties that are contaminated from historical uses making it difficult or impossible to put them to new uses. In addition, six Vermont organizations redeveloping brownfields were awarded funding for that work from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The program, called the Brownfield Economic Revitalization Alliance (BERA), will be jointly administered by Vermont's Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD), and Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). BERA was created to quickly and efficiently move complex brownfield projects to redevelopment, fostering new economic opportunities as a result. Three sites were selected by a team of public and private sector representatives as the first BERA projects. The first is the former Fonda property in St. Albans, the second is the Railyard Enterprise Project in Burlington, and the third is the 453 Pine Street parcel in Burlington.
In addition, Gov. Shumlin signed H.226, which extends the Petroleum Clean-up Fund and strengthens Vermont's brownfield laws. Among the most significant aspects of the new law is a provision giving Regional Development Corporations and Regional Planning Commissions liability protection when they take ownership of brownfield properties.
"The redevelopment of these brownfield sites makes good economic sense and it is good environmental stewardship," Gov. Shumlin said. "Today's unveiling of our new coalition, the signing of H. 226 and the announcement of the recipients of EPA funding are extremely positive steps toward achieving these goals."
"Vermont is taking a big step in helping to advance their Brownfields program, and EPA is excited to be a part of the process," said Director Tucker. "The Brownfields program has proven to be an important vehicle for communities to get under-utilized properties assessed and cleaned up and back into productive use."
EPA funding has been critical to redevelopment projects throughout Vermont and the strong partnership between the state and federal governments has been facilitated by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch.
"Vermont communities have hundreds of former industrial sites that remain unused because of development obstacles such as pollution," Leahy, Sanders and Welch said in a joint statement. "These grants help these communities turn lemons into lemonade, turning underused industrial sites into community assets where people can work, live and play."
The event was hosted at the Vermont Rail System property in Burlington -- part of the Railyard Enterprise Project that was selected for inclusion in the BERA program.
"Coming up with creative solutions for multifaceted projects that involve brownfields will greatly benefit the City of Burlington," Mayor Weinberger said. "I am very appreciative of the fact that the BERA team selected two sites in the City and also want to thank EPA for the assessment funds."
Each of the BERA sites needs specific expertise to ensure that the goal of redevelopment is achieved. Increased collaboration between state agencies and outside partners will help these projects move more quickly toward completion.
"Many Vermont communities include properties that were contaminated as a result of historical use. These properties are generally difficult to redevelop and slowly deteriorate, becoming unsightly and dangerous," Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz said. "The EPA grants we celebrate today, the kick-off of our new Brownfields program, and the signing of Act 55 will all make redevelopment of these sites possible. We hope it will also encourage the redevelopment of similar sites in communities across the state," she added.
Organizations awarded grants from EPA:
City of Burlington: A $200,000 grant to enable the City of Burlington to work with the community and other stakeholders to develop an area-wide plan and implementation strategy for the Railyard Enterprise brownfield area.
New England Youth Theater, Brattleboro: Two $200,000 grants totaling $400,000 to clean up two adjoining sites, 100 Flat Street and 56 Elm Street.
Northwest Regional Planning Commission, St. Albans: Two $200,000 assessment grants totaling $400,000 for use across Franklin and Grand Isle Counties to help communities complete environmental site assessments in preparation of clean up.
Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, Windsor: A $200,000 assessment grant which will be used across Southern Windsor County to complete environmental site assessments and to create clean up plans.
Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Montpelier: Two $200,000 assessment grants totaling $400,000 for use statewide to complete environmental site assessments and to create clean up plans.
Windham Regional Commission, Brattleboro: Two $200,000 grants totaling $400,000 to conduct environmental site assessments in Windham County.