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EPA Administrator Wheeler Highlights Brownfields Success in Montana with Senator Daines

07/24/2020
Contact Information: 
EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)

Kalispell, Mont. (July 24, 2020) — Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler continued his swing through the West with a series of events in Kalispell, Mont. focusing on EPA’s Brownfields program with U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT). Administrator Wheeler also visited Montana State University’s Northwestern Agricultural Research Center and met with local farmers.

“EPA has provided almost $2 million dollars to the City of Kalispell over the past decade to shift its core downtown area from an industrially-oriented center into a retail, residential and recreation center,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “For every dollar of EPA Brownfields grant funding spent, more than $17 dollars in private funding is then invested. There probably isn’t a better return on investment involving federal money than Brownfields grants, and Kalispell’s success are showing why this is the case.”

“It’s great to have Administrator Wheeler here from the EPA , who came from Washington, D.C. out to Montana to see an example of what we can do with this partnership in our communities, when we take these Brownfield sites to restore it, reclaim it and in this case it is this vital, new, great facility,” said Senator Steve Daines. “This is a big win for Montana. A big win for our economy. It is a great way to better utilize the precious resources we have here in Montana.”

“EPA continues to find ways to make a difference in communities across Montana through our Brownfields program,” said EPA Regional Administrator Greg Sopkin. “The investments we are making to revitalize properties in Kalispell and other Montana communities will deliver environmental and economic benefits for years to come.”

Administrator Wheeler, Senator Daines, and Montana Attorney General Tim Fox toured Glacier Rail Park, the former CHS Country Store, former CHS Agronomy Center, and SunRift Restaurant. Kalispell Mayor Mark Johnson and City Manager Doug Russell hosted the tour.

“It’s always a pleasure to host EPA Administrator Wheeler in Montana and share this special corner of America that we are blessed to call home. The Brownfields Program is an important state-federal partnership that helps reclaim damaged lands for economic revitalization and other uses benefiting our communities,” said Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.

The first stop, Glacier Rail Park, is a key step in the implementation of the Kalispell Core & Rail Plan that was developed under an EPA Brownfields grant. The Rail Park is built atop a former quarry which underwent EPA Brownfields environmental assessment prior to redevelopment as a business park.

The tour then progressed to the SunRift Restaurant, which opened in March 2020. The SunRift exemplifies the type of adaptive reuse and infill investments that EPA Brownfields assistance helps communities achieve and provides a perfect vantage point to survey the railroad tracks that will soon be transformed into the multi-use Kalispell Trail.

Under President Trump, EPA has delivered approximately $287 million in Brownfields grants directly to communities and non-profits in need. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, 151 communities were selected to receive 155 grants totaling $65.6 million in EPA Brownfields funding through our Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grants. Of the selected communities, 118 can potentially assess or clean up brownfield sites in census tracts designated as federal Opportunity Zones.

In Region 8 alone, during FY 2020:

  • 73 Brownfield properties have been made Ready for Anticipated Use;
  • 436 acres of underutilized, contaminated and/or otherwise blighted lands were returned to beneficial use;
  • $258.9 million in local investments were leveraged by EPA’s Brownfields in communities across Region 8, which includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming;
  • 82 percent of the competitive brownfields grants awarded in FY20 include Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs) recipients located in Colorado, Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota; and
  • 7 Brownfield cleanups have been completed in partnership with tribal governments.

Administrator Wheeler also visited the former CHS Country Store, which is currently under cleanup and development for commercial use thanks to an EPA Brownfields Assessment grant that include underground tank removals. Redevelopment of this site is just the latest sign that the ambitious Kalispell Core & Rail Redevelopment Plan is resulting in land-use changes and improvements that are more commensurate with the surrounding residential and commercial neighborhoods.

The tour finished at the former CHS Agronomy Center, which is undergoing EPA-funded environmental assessment and storage tank removals. The Agency is currently assisting the city in getting the site Ready for Anticipated Use, potentially as a mixed-use redevelopment.

Administrator Wheeler finished the day at the Montana State University (MSU) Northwestern Agricultural Research Center to meet with local farmers and see ongoing research on crop science. While at the MSU Agriculture Research Center, Administrator Wheeler and Attorney General Fox discussed important issues including the Navigable Waters Protection Rule and water reuse with representatives from the research center, the Montana Farm Bureau, Montana Grain Growers Association, CHS Mountain West Co-Op, and Future Farmers of America students from Glacier High School. 

“It’s an honor to have Administrator Andrew Wheeler visit Montana and express interest in learning more about Montana agriculture and our rural communities. We appreciate the EPA’s attention to our rural communities as well as their willingness to listen to the concerns of farmers and ranchers in regards to environmental issues.  It’s rewarding the administrator took time to meet in Kalispell today at the Montana State University Northwestern Agricultural Research Center with our District 1 Director Craig Blevins, a Ronan cattle rancher, and Susan and Jack Lake, Ronan seed potato farmers.  Many thanks to Administrator Wheeler for coming to Montana,” said Montana Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President John Youngberg.

“Thank you to Administrator Wheeler for meeting with grain producers in the Kalispell area to hear about the unique environmental challenges facing Montana farmers. Visiting growers where they live and work every day to provide consumers with an abundant supply of safe food is an important step in strengthening EPA’s relationship with the ag industry,” said Montana Grain Growers Association Treasurer Tryg Koch. 

Tomorrow, Administrator Wheeler will visit the Anaconda Aluminum Co. Columbia Falls Reduction Plant Superfund Site in Columbia Falls, Mont. The 960-acre former industrial site adjacent to the Flathead River was added to EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List in 2016. EPA is currently overseeing the completion of a comprehensive remedial investigation and feasibility study that will identify specific cleanup needs and options at the site.

Yesterday, Administrator Wheeler began his swing through the West meeting with Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on in-situ recovery process of uranium extraction, and visiting the Sherard Water Treatment Plant. 

Background

Since EPA’s Brownfields Program began in 1995, it has provided nearly $1.6 billion in Brownfield funding to assess and clean up contaminated properties and return blighted properties to productive reuse. EPA’s Brownfields funding has leveraged more than $32.6 billion in cleanup and redevelopment from both public and private sources, which in turn has produced more than 167,000 jobs. This is an average of nine jobs per $100,000 of EPA investment and more than $17 in private funding for each dollar of EPA Brownfield grant funding.

For example, Brownfields grants have been shown to:

  • Increase Local Tax Revenue: A study of 48 Brownfields sites found that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional local tax revenue was generated in a single year after cleanup. This is two to seven times more than the $12.4 million EPA contributed to the cleanup of these sites.
  • Increase Residential Property Values: Another study found that property values of homes near revitalized Brownfields sites increased between 5 and 15 percent following cleanup.