Financial Assistance Opportunities to Deal with Brownfields

March 13, 2023 | Steve Prideaux, Rose Amundson

It is a familiar scene in many of our communities: an abandoned manufacturing facility continues to deteriorate without an end in sight. The unsightly appearance of brownfield properties destabilizes the surrounding neighborhood resulting in lost private investment opportunities, decreased tax revenues, and safety concerns. The problematic site also becomes a drain on financial resources. Expenses related to snow removal and grass mowing quickly add up for a local municipality. Emergency responses linked to vandalism, trespassing, and arson seem to never end. And threats of potential contamination further compound the issue.

Blighted properties represent a significant challenge for elected officials. Fear of cleanup liability can relegate problematic sites to a purgatory status that negatively impacts your community. 

Our environmental team specializes in breaking the cycle through brownfield redevelopment. From site identification through EPA brownfield grant writing and project implementation, we can assist you every step of the way!

Brownfield Frequently Asked Questions

What is a brownfield?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a brownfield 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.” Examples can include commercial or industrial sites such as former manufacturing operations, warehouses, gas stations, dry cleaners, illegal dumps, or vacant lots in developed areas. The agency estimates more than 450,000 brownfields are scattered throughout the United States.

Does my community have brownfields?

HR Green performs Environmental Site Assessments
HR Green performs Environmental Site Assessments

Most likely, yes. No threshold exists to determine if a property is a brownfield. A site must simply struggle with a perception of contamination that impacts future reuse prospects. This potential impact can even emanate from an off-site source. Characteristics common to a brownfield include long-term vacancy, a lack of routine maintenance, and poor housekeeping practices. To classify a property as a brownfield, the EPA must perform an environmental site assessment.

Are funding opportunities available to help address brownfields?

There are a variety of state and federal resources dedicated to advancing the reuse of brownfields. Many of the programs are available to cities, counties, states, regional councils, redevelopment agencies, and 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations on a competitive basis. Different brownfield grants assist with various process stages, from assessment and inventory to cleanup and redevelopment. Individual needs and the scale of proposed projects will dictate the appropriate funding mechanism(s) to pursue. Examples of sources include the following:

Federal Funding for Brownfields

EPA Brownfields Program

This federal EPA Brownfields Program provides grants and technical assistance to assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse contaminated properties. It encourages acquisition and investment in brownfield redevelopment.

Assessment Grants

Applicants can request up to $500,000 for assessment grants and no local match is required.

Assessment Grants allow communities to take a comprehensive approach to addressing brownfields. This brownfield redevelopment tool permits grantees to inventory, prioritize, and assess potentially contaminated properties. Other eligible activities involve completing cleanup planning reports, like an Analysis of Brownfields Cleanup Alternatives (ABCA), which is required for Cleanup Grants, market studies, infrastructure evaluations, or reuse visioning to determine feasible reuses on investigated properties. Targeted sites can be concentrated in a specific neighborhood or distributed throughout a community. Applicants can request up to $500,000, and no local match is required. The project period is up to four years.

epa brownfield grant

Cleanup Grants

Cleanup Grants advance the remediation of impacted sites. These brownfield funds facilitate the removal of identified contamination in soil, groundwater, or other various building material such as asbestos or lead-based paint. Grantees receive a ‘No Further Action’ certificate from the respective state voluntary cleanup program upon completion. Applicants can request up to $1 million; no local match is required. The project period is up to four years.

Applications for the EPA Brownfields Grants Program are accepted on an annual basis. Solicitations typically occur in the fall, with proposals due 60 days following the release of grant guidelines. Award announcements are made the following spring.

State Funding for Brownfields

Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) 128(a) Program

This state program provides technical and financial resources to communities to help find answers to environmental questions at brownfield redevelopment sites they wish to acquire and to assist with environmental cleanup planning and implementation to prepare the site for reuse or redevelopment. Eligible activities include conducting Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs), asbestos surveys, and cleanup.

Applications for Iowa DNR’s 128(a) Program are continually accepted, with the funding period starting July 1st of each year. Applicants can request up to $25,000 for cleanup, and the award requires a 25% local match. Costs associated with a Phase I or II ESA or asbestos survey are completely covered. Many states offer a similar brownfields funding program.

HR Green Support in Securing Brownfield Funding

Unsure how to navigate the process of redevelopment of brownfield sites? We can help!

HR Green excels at positioning clients to receive grant funds to eliminate brownfields. Since 2000, our environmental team has written 40 successful EPA applications resulting in 60 individual grants that leveraged $14.6 million. This includes a 100% success rate since Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2019. We also frequently secure state funds on a project-specific basis to supplement efforts.

HR Green has assisted the City of Oskaloosa in preparing applications resulting in the city securing $700,000 in EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant funding since 2014. They have been informative and detailed consultants for the city in applying for and administering these funds, and Oskaloosa has trusted them with an additional application for another round of funding in 2023.

Sean Murphy | City of Oskaloosa

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