Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Brownfield Projects Breathe New Life into Blighted Land in Okla

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Brownfield Projects Breathe New Life into Blighted Land in Okla

Article excerpt

The American Indian Cultural Center, the Chesapeake Boathouse, and the city's Core to Shore plan have more than one thing in common: All three are using blighted land.

The sites have required and will continue to require some level of environmental cleanup for reuse.

A piece of contaminated land set for cleanup and redevelopment is referred to as a brownfield. Charlie Bartsch, senior fellow with Washington, D.C.-based ICF International, coined the word in 1992 when discussing site reuse after several court decisions held lenders liable for contaminated sites, leading many to back away.

"When that happened, we saw across the country wholesale abandonment of projects," he said.

Bartsch said subsequent efforts and legislation have encouraged redevelopment of those sites to not only clean them up, but shake the stigma attached to sites polluted by everything from abandoned oil well equipment to discarded metals.

After several visits to Oklahoma City over the past three years, Bartsch said he has been impressed with interest in the state for brownfield cleanup projects.

Rita Kottke is the environmental programs manager with the Land Protection Division of the brownfields unit at the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

Federal Superfund legislation to protect people and communities from contaminated sites also led people to shy away from looking at those sites, Kottke said.

"No one wanted to buy them because if you bought the site you bought the problem," she said. "That's why they would sit vacant."

Amendments to Superfund, including the brownfield amendment in 1995, allowed options for people who wanted to clean up and develop those sites without fear of the Environmental Protection Agency holding the owners or purchasers responsible for the contamination.

The Oklahoma Legislature passed a brownfield law in 1996, and it was followed by a federal brownfield law in 2002 that clarified many liability issues.

Developers still have to jump through several hoops in cleaning up a site for reuse, but state and federal money has aided in many projects.

The first Oklahoma brownfield project was the site of Federated Metals in Sand Springs. …

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