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UTICA, NY-Politicians from both sides of the aisle hailed New York State’s new Superfund program that was signed into law Thursday by Gov. George Pataki.

The governor signed the bill at the former Bossert manufacturing site here. The legislation refinances the state’s Superfund program and creates a new brownfields cleanup program as well.

The legislation authorizes up to $135 million to be financed with a combination of bond funds, industry fees, monies from the state general fund and other sources, state officials say. The financing includes: up to $120 million that will be made available on an annual basis for the State Superfund Program; $15 million for the new Brownfield Opportunity Areas Grant Program, technical assistance grants to community-based organizations to participate in the Superfund and Brownfield Cleanup programs for significant threat sites, the development of a Geographic Information System on the state’s groundwater resources and other hazardous waste remediation purposes. In addition, the new law calls for $33 million for the Oil Spill program to be financed by industry fees.

The new Superfund law was praised by Democrats and Republicans in Albany as well as from the environmental community.State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “This bipartisan agreement provides the comprehensive approach to brownfield remediation the Assembly demanded, including tough cleanup standards, refinancing of the Superfund program, as well as strong public health and environmental protections.”

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said, “The clear standards for cleanup that have been established, combined with new incentives to cleanup these properties, will result in the revitalization of tens of thousands of brownfield sites throughout the state. The law also provides economic incentives and liability relief that will encourage the creation of new businesses and new jobs, strengthen our economy, protect public health and improve our environment.”

For developers and property owners, the new law establishes a package of tax credits with an estimated annual value of $135 million to offset costs associated with real property taxes, site preparation, water treatment expenses and property improvements for sites remediated under the Brownfields Cleanup Program. Under the package, tax credits increase for developers that voluntarily remediate a site to unrestricted use standards. The tax credit package also includes an environmental insurance credit that will help to offset costs developers might incur in purchasing insurance policies, state officials note.

In addition, the legislation expands sites eligible for cleanup under the State Superfund Program and improves the Municipal Environmental Restoration Program by increasing the state grant to municipalities from 75% of eligible costs to 90% of eligible on-site costs and 100% of eligible off-site costs.

The new law also provides for liability relief for municipalities, lenders and “innocent third parties” under the Superfund Program. The law still holds polluters responsible for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites.

State officials report that since 1986, the State Superfund Program has provided $1.2 billion for cleanup of more than 800 contaminated sites across New York State. However, the State Superfund, which was funded by the 1986 Environmental Quality Bond Act, was fully allocated as of March 31, 2001. The State Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that at least an additional 800 Superfund sites across New York State are still in need of investigation or remediation.

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