Brownfield Overview and Definition

Overview:

Since its inception in 1995, EPA's Brownfields Program has grown into a proven, results-oriented program that has changed the way contaminated property is perceived, addressed, and managed. EPA's Brownfields Program is designed to empower states, communities, and other stakeholders in economic redevelopment to work together in a timely manner to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields.

A brownfield is 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. It is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land, and both improves and protects the environment.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, EPA provided small amounts of seed money to local governments that launched hundreds of two-year Brownfields "pilot" projects and developed guidance and tools to help states, communities and other stakeholders in the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields sites. The 2002 Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act (the "Brownfields Law") codified many of EPA's practices, policies and guidance. The Brownfields Law expanded EPA's assistance by providing new tools for the public and private sectors to promote sustainable Brownfields cleanup and reuse.

Brownfields grants continue to serve as the foundation of EPA's Brownfields Program. These grants support revitalization efforts by funding environmental assessment, cleanup, and job training activities. 

The Anatomy of a Brownfields Redevelopment document provides an overview of the Brownfields cleanup and redevelopment process from a real estate development perspective. The document identifies key challenges in Brownfields redevelopment, critical participants in Brownfields transactions, and important stages throughout processes such as pre-development, assessment, cleanup and development, and long-term property management. Example scenarios from projects using private, public-private, and public funding sources are included. The document also provides a brief glossary of key terms, as well as additional resources for those looking to clean up and redevelop brownfields.

EPA's investment in the brownfields program has resulted in many accomplishments, including leveraging brownfields cleanup and redevelopment funding from the private and public sectors and leveraging  jobs. The momentum generated by the program is leaving an enduring legacy. The brownfields program and its partners have provided guidance and incentives to support economic revitalization, and empowered communities to address the brownfields in their midst. EPA's brownfield program continues to look to the future by expanding the types of properties it addresses, forming new partnerships, and undertaking new initiatives to help revitalize communities across the nation. 

Definition:

Brownfields

With certain legal exclusions and additions, the term "brownfield site" means 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.

Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the environment, reduces blight, and takes development pressures off greenspaces and working lands. 

  • Definition Source

    The Brownfields Site definition is found in Public Law 107-118 (H.R. 2869) - "Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act" signed into law January 11, 2002. "DEFINITION OF BROWNFIELD SITE- Section 101 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (42 U.S.C. 9601) is amended by adding at the end the following: (39) BROWNFIELD SITE- (A) IN GENERAL- The term "brownfield site" means 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. (B) EXCLUSIONS- The term "brownfield site" does not include-- (i) a facility that is the subject of a planned or ongoing removal action under this title; (ii) a facility that is listed on the National Priorities List or is proposed for listing; (iii) a facility that is the subject of a unilateral administrative order, a court order, an administrative order on consent or judicial consent decree that has been issued to or entered into by the parties under this Act; (iv) a facility that is the subject of a unilateral administrative order, a court order, an administrative order on consent or judicial consent decree that has been issued to or entered into by the parties, or a facility to which a permit has been issued by the United States or an authorized State under the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.), the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1321), the Toxic Substances Control Act (15 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.), or the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300f et seq.); (v) a facility that-- (I) is subject to corrective action under section 3004(u) or 3008(h) of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6924(u), 6928(h)); and (II) to which a corrective action permit or order has been issued or modified to require the implementation of corrective measures; (vi) a land disposal unit with respect to which-- (I) a closure notification under subtitle C of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6921 et seq.) has been submitted; and (II) closure requirements have been specified in a closure plan or permit; (vii) a facility that is subject to the jurisdiction, custody, or control of a department, agency, or instrumentality of the United States, except for land held in trust by the United States for an Indian tribe; (viii) a portion of a facility-- (I) at which there has been a release of polychlorinated biphenyls; and (II) that is subject to remediation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (15 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.); or (ix) a portion of a facility, for which portion, assistance for response activity has been obtained under subtitle I of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6991 et seq.) from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund established under section 9508 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. (C) SITE-BY-SITE DETERMINATIONS- Notwithstanding subparagraph (B) and on a site-by-site basis, the President may authorize financial assistance under section 104(k) to an eligible entity at a site included in clause (i), (iv), (v), (vi), (viii), or (ix) of subparagraph (B) if the President finds that financial assistance will protect human health and the environment, and either promote economic development or enable the creation of, preservation of, or addition to parks, greenways, undeveloped property, other recreational property, or other property used for nonprofit purposes. (D) ADDITIONAL AREAS- For the purposes of section 104(k), the term "brownfield site" includes a site that-- (i) meets the definition of "brownfield site" under subparagraphs (A) through (C); and (ii)(I) is contaminated by a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)); (II)(aa) is contaminated by petroleum or a petroleum product excluded from the definition of "hazardous substance" under section 101; and bb) is a site determined by the Administrator or the State, as appropriate, to be (AA) of relatively low risk, as compared with other petroleum-only sites in the State; and (BB) a site for which there is no viable responsible party and which will be assessed, investigated, or cleaned up by a person that is not potentially liable for cleaning up the site; and (cc) is not subject to any order issued under section 9003(h) of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6991b(h)); or (III) is mine-scarred land."