Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Evaluating Sustainable Land Revitalization Programs and Policies in the United States

Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Evaluating Sustainable Land Revitalization Programs and Policies in the United States

Article excerpt


The implementation of sustainable land revitalization programs has grown in size, complexity and cost, particularly since the latter half of the 20th century, for the United States and many other industrialized countries. During the post-industrial revolution period, polluting industries and urban planning have created land areas that require redevelopment and, often times, significant remediation. In the United States, land revitalization programs have been disjointed in their creation as public programs and policies which reflect different legal frameworks, organizational dynamics and environmental approaches. While the goal of each of the land revitalization programs, whether stated implicitly or explicitly, is sustainability, they are implemented in a diverse manner with overlapping policy actors that sometimes compete. The underlying approaches of these programs in their initial creation have different purposes, and the fragmented policies can create a series of site projects without any real comprehensive approach to land revitalization for metropolitan areas or regions. The outcome of the lack of integration across these programs can cause confusion for the private sector and a "hop-scotch" approach to redevelopment with unintended consequences for communities, such as gentrification, that can result in economically-forced relocation of existing residents. Furthermore, many of these sites that are in need of revitalization are located in low-income and minority populations within the United States, which have become known as environmental justice communities, that are overly burden with disproportionately high adverse impacts compared to surrounding communities.

This research examines four major land revitalization programs and policies in the United States: the Superfund Program, National Brownfields Program, ATSDR Brownfields Land/Reuse Model Action Program, and the State Voluntary Programs. Additional programs such as Smart Growth cities exist and have decades of implementation that can be compared. The birth of these programs reflect what policy scholars call different understandings of land revitalization through issue definitions and policy solutions (Anderson, 2014; Baumgartner and Jones, 2010). As a result, different legal frameworks, organizational dynamics, and environmental approaches result in complex implementation that hinders redevelopment in a comprehensive manner. The result of these programs often times are site-specific projects with no overall plan for sustainability. To evaluate how land revitalization takes place in the United States, we begin with the review of the four major programs with more detail being available on the controversial Superfund Program. The National Brownfields and the Land/Reuse Action Model are evaluated together because of their similarity in approach. Then, finally, a description of the state voluntary brownfield programs is provided which includes a significant diversity in land revitalization. This research uses a comparative case study approach of these major programs for land revitalization in the United States to examine implementation with the understanding for future practice.

2.Superfund Program, National Brownfields Program, Land/Reuse Model Action Program, and State Voluntary Programs

Before comparing the four major land revitalization programs in the United States, each program is described for understanding how the programs are being implemented today and how these programs were originally created. All four of these programs focus on improving the use of the land whether it is for protection of human health, the environment, or economic development. However, these programs take very different approaches to accomplish their goals while sharing some overlap.

2.1Superfund Program

The Superfund Program, which it is commonly called in the United States, was created by The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 (Pub. …

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