WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday announced more than $66 million in grants to 151 communities nationwide to assess and clean up contaminated or abandoned “brownfields'' – industrial and commercial properties that contain a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. An estimated 450,000 brownfields, including abandoned industrial facilities, waste disposal sites and former gas stations, plague cities, towns and rural areas throughout the country.
“This is a significant opportunity for environmental justice communities and rural communities that for far too long have been living with blighted pieces of property. And now they can see on the horizon investment opportunities that will come to fruition,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said Tuesday in an interview.
About half the communities targeted for the latest EPA grants are receiving money from the program for the first time, and more than 85% are located in small communities, Regan said.
President Joe Biden “rightfully sees this as a significant opportunity, which is why the American Jobs Plan calls for an additional $5 billion investment in brownfields and Superfund sites,'' Regan said, referring to Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal.
The plan also calls for major investments in pipes and other infrastructure for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater.
On other topics, Regan said the administration is working on a plan to replace a clean water rule imposed by the Trump administration, as well as a replacement for former President Barack Obama's plan to address carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Regan said he wants to learn from both of the previous administrations before issuing his own rules on clean power and clean water. The water rule – sometimes referred to as “waters of the United States” or WOTUS – addresses federal jurisdiction over streams and wetlands and has been a point of contention for decades.
Regan also said federal standards for automobile tailpipe emissions could be released as soon as this summer. The EPA and Transportation Department said last month they are moving to restore California's ability to set its own standards.
On another controversy, Regan said EPA has received “tremendous” interest from scientists and other experts seeking to serve on two advisory boards he gutted soon after talking office.
Regan has said his March “reset” of the Science Advisory Board and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee was needed because Trump administration appointees were overly friendly to business. He pledged his actions would return EPA to its practice of relying on advice from a balanced group of experts.