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EPA awards Sweetgrass Development $300K to support property cleanup and redevelopment in north-central Montana

Brownfields grant to spur economic redevelopment in the communities of Browning, Heart Butte, Cut Bank and Sunburst

06/05/2019
Contact Information: 
Richard Mylott (mylott.richard@epa.gov)
303-312-6654

DENVER -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding the Sweetgrass Development Corporation (Sweetgrass) a $300,000 Brownfields assessment grant targeting properties on the Blackfeet Reservation, and in Glacier and Toole Counties in north-central Montana. Sweetgrass Development is among 149 communities selected to receive grant awards totaling $64,623,553 million in EPA Brownfields funding through our Multipurpose, Assessment, and Cleanup (MAC) grant programs.

Sweetgrass will use the EPA funds to conduct environmental site assessments and develop cleanup plans in the communities of Browning, Cut Bank, Heart Butte, and Sunburst, located along U.S. Highway 2, which leads to Glacier National Park, and Interstate 15, which leads to Canada. By focusing funds in the town of Browning, the largest community within the Blackfeet Reservation, redevelopment will create tourism jobs and services and improve the quality of life for the most disadvantaged in the target area.  

“These grants fulfill several of President Trump’s top priorities simultaneously: helping communities in need transform contaminated sites into community assets that not only create jobs and jumpstart economic development but also improve public health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We are targeting these funds to areas that need them the most. Approximately 40 percent of the selected recipients are receiving Brownfields grants for the first time, which means we are reaching areas that may previously been neglected, and 108 of the selected communities have identified sites or targeted areas for redevelopment that fall within Opportunity Zones.”

“EPA continues to support Montana communities as they clean up and redevelop properties and create much-needed services and economic opportunities for their residents,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “We look forward to seeing the areas targeted by EPA’s grant revitalized as places where people live, work and play.”

"This award will allow Sweetgrass development to continue a very successful program within our five-county region. The properties identified along Highway 2 and Interstate 15 will not only assist the communities with redevelopment and increase the tax base, but tourists passing through our region will see thriving communities, places that they will want to return to visit," said Sarah Converse, executive director of Sweetgrass Development.

Sweetgrass has identified several properties as priorities for assessment, cleanup and redevelopment. These include:  

The Teepee, Browning -- The Teepee is a well-known and highly visible property that has been formerly used as a fireworks store and coffee shop. While numerous businesses have expressed interest in redeveloping the property, the presence of asbestos and lead-based paint have prohibited reuse. 

Fire Hall Property, Heart Butte – The former fire hall property has known asbestos and lead-based paint contamination. Cleanup and demolition will make the site available for a new gas station, convenience store, and a park. 

Glacier Hotel, Cut Bank -- The former Glacier Hotel is currently vacant and in disrepair. Previous assessments have confirmed the presence of asbestos and lead-based paint, with buildings in need of additional assessment. This site is a priority as potential redevelopment includes a shelter for women and children who are homeless or trying to escape violence. 

Suta South, Sunburst – This vacant property in Sunburst, a former gas station, is the subject of redevelopment plans to create a rest area with automotive battery charging stations sourced with solar power.

Background

A brownfield is a property for which the expansion, redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. There are estimated to be more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S. As of May 2019, under the EPA Brownfields Program 30,153 properties have been assessed, and 86,131 acres of idle land have been made ready for productive use. In addition, communities have been able to use Brownfields grants to leverage 150,120 jobs and more than $28 billion of public and private funding.

Grants awarded by EPA’s Brownfield Program provide communities across the country with an opportunity to transform contaminated sites into community assets that attract jobs and achieve broader economic development outcomes while taking advantage of existing infrastructure. 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% following cleanup.

One hundred and eight communities selected for grants this year have identified sites or targeted areas in census tracts designated as federal Opportunity Zones. An Opportunity Zone is an economically-distressed community where new investment, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment

List of applicants selected for funding: https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/applicants-selected-fy19-brownfields-multipurpose-assessment-and-cleanup-grants

EPA booklet: “Brownfields: Properties with New Purpose, Improving Local Economies in Communities with Brownfield Sites”

https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-06/documents/bf_booklet.pdf

For more on the Brownfields Grantshttps://www.epa.gov/brownfields/types-brownfields-grant-funding

For more on EPA’s Brownfields Programhttps://www.epa.gov/brownfields