NJ’s Brownfield Incentive Program- Good Step, Need More $$$
HAMILTON, Today at Mill One, Governor Murphy held a press conference highlighting New Jersey’s program to reclaim, redevelop, and revitalize our brownfield sites. There are two programs that are in the works that will help redevelop brownfield sites. The first is a $15 million brownfield loan program. Applicants can receive $100,000- $5million per site for revitalization, assessment, investigation, cleanup and demolition. The second program is the Brownfield Redevelopment Incentive that provides $50 million per year in tax credits for brownfield projects. Each project can qualify for $4million in tax credits.
“New Jersey’s brownfield incentive programs will help clean up and redevelop brownfield sites across the state. These tax incentives and funding programs are important for improving the environment, health, safety, and economy of communities. We are taking abandoned, underused sites, and turning them into productive ones like Mill One. Instead of knocking down buildings, we are helping to repurpose them. We are taking lemons and making lemonade. These programs are critical for not only urban areas but underutilized sites to improve the environment, provide recreational opportunities and promote jobs opportunities,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
Mill One was the location for the press conference today. It is an example of how an abandoned building can be redeveloped. It is now a modern, recycled space using solar on their roof. Several new companies, such as Isles have signed leases for space. Isles is a community development and environmental organization based in Trenton, NJ. Their mission is to foster self-reliant families and health, sustainable communities.
“Mill One is an example of reusing buildings instead of promoting more development and sprawl. However, it took 15 years for New Jersey to get to this point. New Jersey needs to do a better job at coordinating funding for the brownfield program and streamline things. The Woodbridge Waterfront Park is another example. This remediation project includes restoration of the natural wetland habitat. The site was contaminated and unused for many years until it was designated as a brownfield. After remediation, this brownfield will go from toxic nightmare to a recreation area with direct public access to the Raritan River from Woodbridge. This includes walking trails, birding opportunities, education enhancements, and restoration of the important wetland habitat,” said Tittel.
The application window for these incentive programs are open through April 13th.
“Money should not go to where the market can clean up or develop the site such as a Home Depot on Route 1 in Edison, but instead should be going to sites in communities where this money will make a difference. The money needs to go to where the site will get cleaned up or developed instead of staying empty and polluted. A lot of the money in the past has gone to sites where there were responsible parties who were legally responsible for the cleanup. Instead of requiring the polluter to pay for the cleanup the taxpayers paid. The state of New Jersey should aggressively go after those polluters by the DEP performing audits and have them pay the state back. This would get the money back from polluters who should not have gotten the money in the first place to help fund the programs going forward,” said Tittel.
By not having funds to clean up these sites that means there will be more toxins and contamination getting into the environment and the communities around these sites. This hurts the economic vitality of cities, towns, and older suburban areas because these are the places for economic growth and new ratable. Instead, the sites will continue to pollute the environment and hurt the local economy. It also hurts investments in these cities and towns since there are no brownfield funds businesses and investments will go elsewhere.
“These funds for brownfield incentives come from the corporate business tax dedication for environmental programs that the Sierra Club helped to pass in the late 1990s. Since that time the money from these programs have been diverted to other causes such as salaries for DEP staff and other program areas like fixing of parks. Instead of creating jobs and cleaning up contaminated sites or removing underground tanks there have been tax cuts and corporate giveaways taking the money away from these programs. Tax cuts have been made for corporations that work out of state, subsidizing developments not on brownfields, and for others that have cut the CBT collections by over 25%,” said Tittel. “The states should be looking at supplemental appropriations to keep these programs alive and to ensure that the money goes to appropriate projects in appropriate places.”
New Jersey has more Superfund Sites than any other state in the nation. Currently, abandoned sites can only get cleaned up with taxpayer money – and there is very little of it
“New Jersey’s brownfield incentive programs are a small step in the right direction. These funds will help plan and get cleanups started, but these projects will need a lot more money. New Jersey has more Superfund Sites than any other state. We need federal funding to clean up our contaminated sites and remediate brownfields to improve communities, create jobs, and improve public health and the environment. We need to reinstate a Superfund Tax because polluters need to be held accountable to fund these cleanups. We also need to make sure these sites are cleaned up properly, not just capped,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It is vital that we clean up contaminated sites as quickly and completely as possible. The longer we wait, the more we endanger the people and environment of New Jersey.”