Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on January 10, 2013
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on March 19, 2013
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 12, 2013
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports continued federal financial aid to the redevelopment of brownfields sites and urges Congress to reauthorize the Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act of 2002.
Congress also should repeal the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation of November 1, 2005 (70 Fed. Reg. 66,070), that allows persons with less than a baccalaureate degree to perform “all appropriate inquiries” at brownfields sites under section 107 of CERCLA in order to establish a defense to liability under the Act for prospective purchasers.
The Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act, Pub.L. 107-118, formally established a federal brownfields redevelopment assistance program within the EPA. The authorization for brownfield grants under this law expired on September 30, 2006.
The Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act provided grant authority totaling $250 million annually. It included $200 million annually for assessment, cleanup, revolving loan funds, research, and job training. Of that amount, $50 million, or 25 percent of appropriated funds if less than the fully authorized level, was set aside for assessment and cleanup of petroleum contaminated sites. Assessment grants were limited to $200,000 per site except in some cases where, due to size and contamination level, the limit was $350,000. The cleanup grants could be used to capitalize a revolving loan fund or used directly to remediate sites. Each cleanup grant was limited to $1 million.
The EPA regulation could allow technicians with no formal education beyond the high school level to perform key engineering duties at hazardous waste facilities. This regulation would place human health and the environment at risk by allowing untrained, unlicensed personnel to practice engineering at facilities contaminated by toxic chemical wastes. The regulations permit unqualified technicians to carry out functions that are intrinsically engineering in nature. These functions include determinations of the nature of hazardous waste and other toxic materials on the site, the extent of the pollution, the potential risk to public health, site hydrology and potential engineering or environmentally sound solutions to the site’s contamination.
Community growth planning based on the principles of sustainable development should give consideration to the public needs, to private initiatives and to local, state, and regional planning objectives. Revitalized brownfields would reduce the demand for undeveloped land. Full provision of public infrastructure and facilities redevelopment must be included in all growth initiatives, and should be made at the lowest appropriate level of government.
A targeted brownfields restoration program should take into account site-specific environmental exposure factors and risks based on a reasonable assessment of the future use of the property by competent licensed professional engineers.
ASCE Policy Statement 485
First Approved in 2001