Brownfields Redevelopment

Environmental Liability Exemptions for Local Governments – Related to Redevelopment

Counties, cities, villages and towns, along with RDAs, CDAs, other local governmental units, can fairly easily obtain environmental liability exemptions, civil immunity, and cost recovery authority in Wisconsin when taking title to unproductive/abandoned industrial and commercial properties.

These protections are explicitly authorized by multiple sections in Wis. Statutes Ch. 292, and are designed to enable local governments to take action to stimulate redevelopment activities at contaminated or potentially contaminated properties when the private market is not providing enough capital and economic activity to achieve the desired level of community improvement on its own.

Remediation and Redevelopment Program staff are available to help local government officials understand and use these robust statutory tools, as well as identify financial assistance opportunities for environmental investigation and cleanup work. The DNR’s Green Team meetings are a good way to get started on your first, or next, redevelopment project.

The DNR publication Local Government Environmental Liability Exemptions in Wisconsin (RR-055) provides an overview of several local government environmental liability exemptions, and lists types of documentation that the DNR typically requests to confirm that the exemption is in effect.

Racine to Use DNR Brownfield Assessment Funds to Aid Uptown Redevelopment

Efforts to assess possible contamination at a decades-old industrial site in Racine’s uptown area will get a boost with a recently issued brownfields grant from the Department of Natural Resources.

The award comes from the DNR Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) program, and will provide for contractor services worth approximately $20,000. The work will help the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Racine (RDA) assess possible contamination, leading to a potential cleanup and eventual reuse of the site.

Brownfields site in Racine.

Racine assessed this brownfield site in the uptown area with help from a WAM award worth $20,000 in contractor services.

The nearly one-acre site on 13th Street has a long history of various industrial uses. It was most recently the site of a laundry service for the health care and hospitality industries. Historic records from the Racine Fire Department indicate that a 500-gallon underground fuel oil tank was located on or near the property.

With the RDA ready to promote the property, an investigation of the environmental conditions on the site will help put the group in a better position of securing a buyer and returning the site to productive economic status.

“As Racine continues to redevelop former industrial sites, the DNR is proud to be part of the city’s future,” said Christine Haag, chief of the DNR brownfields section. “This WAM grant could be just the leverage that the RDA needs to help turn this property around and get it on track for the next generation of use.”

Administered by the DNR Remediation and Redevelopment Program, WAM awards provide communities with professional environmental site assessments of properties with known or perceived contamination. The program is funded through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brownfields assessment grant.

Participation in the WAM program requires minimal effort by local governments. Because there is no financial match or project administration involved, the program is an attractive opportunity for communities. In many instances, WAM awards are leveraged with other sources of funding to kick-start repurposing efforts on properties that may have been underutilized for many years.

Applications can be submitted for WAM awards at any time. Properties eligible for funding include closed or closing manufacturing plants, or vacant land with a history of manufacturing.

For more information, contact Tom Coogan at 608-267-7560 or Thomas.Coogan@wisconsin.gov.  

Last Chance to Register for Brownfields Grant-Writing Workshop in La Crosse

Join the Wisconsin DNR and Minnesota Brownfields in La Crosse, on Aug. 1, 2018, for a free, full-day workshop on writing successful EPA grant applications. Get the information you need to compete effectively for these property investigation and cleanup funds — and get a head-start on your proposal for the upcoming fall grant opportunity.

Who should attend? Local and regional government officials, not-for-profit economic and community development organizations, tribes, and any other entity interested in applying for federal grants to assist with the assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment of under-performing commercial and industrial properties in their community.

More information about the workshop is available HERE, and a link to the registration form is available HERE. Lunch is provided too!

Economic Development on Brownfields Workshop Announced

You’re invited to a workshop about economic development on brownfield properties, to be held at the County Community Building in DeKalb, Illinois, on July 25, 2018, from 9:15 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. DeKalb is about 60 minutes south of Beloit. The workshop is free but registration is required by July 20. Lunch will be provided.

This workshop will help communities gain a better understanding of what a brownfield is, learn how brownfield revitalization can be a part of your community’s economic development strategy, and hear from state and national leaders about resources available to your community. Some of the material will be Illinois-specific, but most of it is broadly applicable to all brownfield properties everywhere.

Workshop presenters include a brownfields expert from U.S. EPA’s Technical Assistance to Brownfields (TAB) program. This person also serves and consults with Wisconsin communities. TAB services and federal funding opportunities will be discussed in detail.

For more information about this workshop, and to register, go to https://www.ksutab.org/education/workshops/details?id=300

Brownfields Study Group Celebrates 20 Years

Created in the state budget as a one-year project to help the governor, legislators and state agencies further understand the unique challenges of taking on the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated properties, the Wisconsin Brownfields Study Group now celebrates 20 years as a state and national model for stakeholder involvement.

The group is comprised of local government officials, academia and representatives from the private sector, and is facilitated by Department of Natural Resources staff.

Continue reading “Brownfields Study Group Celebrates 20 Years”

2018 Brownfields Conference for Local Governments a Success in Stevens Point

A crowd of nearly 100 people attended the Remediation and Redevelopment Program’s recent conference, Brownfields for Local Government Officials, held May 10, 2018 in Stevens Point.

The one-day conference spanned a host of land recycling issues, but did not include the technical topics often reserved for other events. Throughout the day, participants heard from developers, local government colleagues, and others about the tools and strategies to capitalize on underused, or even abandoned, properties.

The day began with an overview of the DNR’s Brownfields Program, including explanations of the financial aid and technical assistance that staff can provide. Other sessions included panel discussions with program staff (formerly private sector consultants) and with experienced developers familiar with the unique requirements of brownfields redevelopment.

Attendees also heard from local government leaders about devising county-wide redevelopment plans, state-assisted cost recovery mechanisms, and both state and federal brownfields assistance programs, including the Technical Assistance for Brownfields (TAB) program, a joint effort through the EPA and Kansas State University.

Conference presentations can be found in the program’s Training Library.

A similar conference will be held again in 2020.

Aug. 1, 2018 – EPA Brownfields Grant Writing Workshop in La Crosse

Join the DNR and Minnesota Brownfields on Aug. 1, 2018, in La Crosse, for a free, full-day workshop on writing successful EPA grant applications. Get the information you need to know to compete effectively for these funds, and get a head-start on your proposal for the fall grant opportunity.

Wisconsin communities, and the DNR, have been awarded millions of dollars in brownfields grant funds by the EPA over the past decade. It is clearly possible to obtain these dollars, but your grant application package has to be very good to stand out and get funded. Tips and strategies from experts will be shared at this workshop.

New federal legislation, referred to as the BUILD Act, makes changes to several aspects of brownfields law, including more clarity for local governments on how to obtain federal liability protections, and more flexibility in the EPA grant program. Learn about these changes and more.

Who should attend? Local and regional government officials, not-for-profit economic and community development organizations, tribes, and any other entity interested in applying for federal grants to assist with the assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment of under-performing commercial and industrial properties in their community.

More information about the workshop is available HERE, and a link to the registration form is available HERE (button near top-right of web page). We hope you can join us!

A Nod to the DNR’s VPLE Program in Coverage of Oak Creek’s New Lake Vista Park

Natural Resources Board tours Oak Creek

Oak Creek City Attorney Larry Haskin addresses the media and members of the Natural Resources Board during an August 2017 tour of Lake Vista Park in Oak Creek.

The city of Oak Creek plans to officially unveil its newest park this summer. It’s a prime location of nearly 100-acres that overlooks Lake Michigan and is the former site of a chemical plant that left a history of contamination when it closed.

The decades-long environmental cleanup was completed in 2014 using the DNR’s Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) program. The VPLE program provided an incentive for the industrial owner to complete a cleanup that allowed the city to transform this former lakefront industrial site into a stunning new park with majestic views of the nearby lake.

You can listen to the story by Milwaukee Public Radio.

For more information about the DNR’s VPLE program, please contact Michael.Prager@wisconsin.gov.

 

EPA ARC Grants Preparation & BUILD Act

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields program provides direct grant funding to local governments and other entities for environmental assessment activities, cleanup work, and the capitalization of revolving loan funds. New grant application guidelines are announced each year in the fall, typically in October, and applicants usually have around eight weeks to complete and submit their application.

Competition for these grants is strong, and the total amount of funding available is limited to about $50 million nationwide each year. Many Wisconsin communities and the DNR have obtained brownfields grant funds from the EPA over the past 15 years.

Continue reading “EPA ARC Grants Preparation & BUILD Act”

EPA Brownfields Grant Application Tips – June 6 Webinar

Every year, in the fall, the EPA offers a new opportunity for local governments and others to obtain grant funds for environmental assessments, revolving loan funds, and property cleanup work (“ARC”). It is good to get started early on your grant application package, well before the official EPA announcement is made in the fall.

One of the EPA’s national outreach and assistance contractors is hosting a free “head-start” grant writing webinar on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 | 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM CDT. The title of the webinar is “Writers of the Best ARC.” In addition to tried-and-true tips and techniques, along with hard lessons learned, the webinar is offering grant writing advice from expert grant writers from around the country.

Get a head start on the ARC grant application period, and learn about recent federal legislative changes that may affect the EPA guidelines this fall. Register at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/3941484594013599491

In addition, the EPA periodically hosts general grant award process webinars. More information on these presentations is available at https://www.epa.gov/grants/epa-grants-award-process-webinars.