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ALBANY-Gov. David Paterson signed legislation that reforms the State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program to better target incentives for cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated sites. According to Gov. Paterson, the goal should be for every former industrial site in New York State to be returned to “safe and productive use.”

This legislation is expected to greatly benefit the Upstate economy. “The purpose of the Brownfields law was to clean up the environment, not clean out the state treasury,” says Gov. Paterson, in a prepared statement. “Now this reformed program will serve as an important tool for revitalizing cities and towns across New York State. We will now be able to break down barriers to economic development in struggling neighborhoods across New York.

The Brownfield Cleanup Program was created in 2003 to encourage cleanup and redevelopment of brownfield sites across the State, using refundable tax credits as incentives for developers. A brownfield is a contaminated property where the presence of pollution has impeded redevelopment. Many such sites are abandoned throughout the state and contribute to urban blight.

According to a prepared statement, “the original program did not achieve desired redevelopment in struggling areas, and provided large windfalls for some developers because tax credits were based on the amount invested by a developer on redevelopment, and has no relation to the investment made in remediation.” New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis says that “under the old program, not enough cleanup money found its way into the urban core of our cities, where thousands of brownfield sites perpetuate blight, create public health risks and discourage needed investment.”

The reformed legislation is expected to “protect the integrity of the program by capping redevelopment credits while providing better incentives for cleanup.” It will: limit redevelopment credits for non-manufacturing projects to $35 million or three times the cost of site cleanup, whichever is less; limit redevelopment credits for manufacturing projects to $45 million or six times the cost of site remediation, whichever is less; increase the tax credits available for site cleanup; sites now eligible for 22% to 50% of the total cost of remediation, based on the level of cleanup; and improve administration of the Brownfield Opportunity Area Program.

Senator Carl Marcellino, chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee and sponsor of the bill, says in a prepared release that “this new law is a positive step towards advancing our common goal of promoting the physical, economic and social revitalization of our communities.”

Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, chair of the Assembly Environmental Committee, says in a prepared statement that the legislation “will lead to the cleanup of thousands of contaminated properties across New York. It will encourage new investment and redevelopment that will invigorate local economies. The program changes will help brownfields be an attractive development alternative to an undisturbed green field and help protect our environment.”

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