National Brownfield Association - About Us - What is a Brownfield?
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Q: What is a Brownfield?

A: Easy to recognize, hard to define, and yet, simply put, it is "a real estate transaction with environmental personality."Most states have their own definition of a Brownfield. The U.S. EPA, with certain legal exclusions and additions, defines the term "Brownfield Site" to mean real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

Q: How many Brownfields exist in the US?

A: No one knows exactly how many Brownfields there are, or how many have been cleaned up and redeveloped. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that there are as many as 425,000 Brownfields throughout the U.S. Some estimates show that there are 5 million acres of abandoned industrial sites in our nation’s cities – roughly the same amount of land occupied by 60 of our largest cities. Some estimate that as much as $2 trillion of real estate is undervalued due to the presence of contamination.

Q: What are examples of a Brownfield?

A: Common examples are abandoned gas stations and dry cleaners, industrial properties, strip malls, railroad properties, factories and closed military bases.

Q: Are Brownfields regulated?

A: This is a complex question and varies state by state and property to property. Many states have voluntary cleanup or state specific Brownfield programs that specify the eligibility requirements for applicants. There are a number of Federal laws that may also apply to a site based on ownership and the type of contaminate suspect or present. The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act (Public Law 107-118 [H.R. 2869]) was signed into law January 11, 2002. The focus of this act is to provide relief for small businesses from liability under CERCLA of 1980, and to amend CERCLA to promote the cleanup and reuse of Brownfields, to provide financial assistance for Brownfields revitalization, to enhance State response programs, and for other purposes.

Q: Why redevelop a Brownfield?

A: Brownfield redevelopment can benefit both private investors and the communities in which they are located. For the private sector, Brownfields redevelopment can mean new business opportunities, the potential for profit on unused or under-utilized properties, improved community and environmental stewardship, and access to untapped urban markets. The public sector can benefit from an increased number of employment opportunities, increased local and state tax revenues, improvements in the community’s quality of life, and a reduction in urban sprawl.

Q: What are the major impediments to brownfields redevelopment?

A: Property owners and traditional developers encounter many impediments to redeveloping Brownfields:

    1. Lack of necessary funding for cleanup
    2. Concerns over liability
    3. The need for environmental assessments of the properties
    4. Uncertainty over cleanup standards
    5. Unfavorable neighborhood and market conditions
    6. Land assembly issues
    7. Reluctance to invest in distressed communities due to concerns with urban socio-economic conditions

Q: How can the NBA help?

A: The NBA provides information, educational programs and events. Our members make up a network of professionals that poses the wide range of skills – finance, insurance, real estate, environmental remediation and design and build to safely clean up and put these sites back into productive use.