Experts Corner: Solar Energy and Better Nutrition Top 2016 Brownfield Trends

This year, the EPA’s Brownfield Grant Program will have $30 million more than last year to spend to revitalize abandoned, underused and potentially contaminated sites. The $110 million will go to the identification, assessment, characterization, and cleanup planning at brownfields sites throughout the United States.

Every federal dollar spent on brownfield cleanup leverages $17.79 in value for communities in the form of new jobs, increased property value and expanded commercial investment.  While mixed use retail/residential projects took center stage in 2015, some new redevelopment possibilities have gained traction recently.

“Brightfields”

Using brownfields for renewable energy generation projects continues to be a preferred option, because it lessens the pressure to build on properties currently used for other purposes.  Specifically for solar projects, this would mean not using open spaces, desert habitat, or on farmland.  As many concerns have been raised over the potential environmental impacts of large-scale solar development in the desert, “brightfields” represent an opportunity to invest in renewable energy without many of the potential downsides.  The surface area needed for large scale solar projects could be satisfied by brownfield sites that may not be suitable for other uses, and provide a less expensive option.

Like other brownfield redevelopment projects, federal, state, and local incentives can be available.  The type and amounts will depend on geographic location.  Additional information can be found at EPA’s Re-Powering website at http://www.epa.gov/re-powering.

Food Deserts

The USDA defines food deserts as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

USDA’s Economic Research Service estimates that 23.5 million people live in food deserts. More than half of those people (13.5 million) are low-income. A one-mile marker may not be appropriate to use in rural areas where the population is more sparsely distributed and where vehicle ownership is high. To further refine the number of people who may be affected by food deserts, a 10-mile marker is used to consider food access in rural areas. Currently, 2.3 million people live in low-income rural areas that are more than 10 miles from a supermarket.

Brownfields can be used to combat the situation.  Reuse options include community facilities such as gardens, kitchens, and canneries; as well as farmers markets and food retail.  Providing other food options can improve the health and lifestyle of communities.

A knowledgeable brownfield consultant can help you take advantage of these types of projects and assist with the technical aspects of brownfield redevelopment as well as help you understand other mechanisms and incentives to bridge funding gaps for private and public redevelopment projects all over the United States.

About the Author

John Hargraves, P.G. is a Regional Manager and Senior Project Manager at PM Environmental, Inc. and has served clients throughout the U.S. for over 25 years. He specializes in Brownfield Redevelopment, Grants/Alternate Funding Sources, Economic Development Incentives, Environmental Due Diligence, Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs), Remediation, and Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUST). Hargraves has directly managed over $25 million of municipal, state, and private contracts involving site characterization, initial remediation, remediation design, system maintenance and site monitoring involving impacts from petroleum, solvents, volatile compounds, metals, PCBs, and other materials.

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February 3, 2016

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