Idaho will benefit greatly from the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields Program, a fund created to clean up polluted areas across America. More than $2 million is headed to the Gem State to clean and revitalize three regions, including the city of Pocatello. The funds will be used to remove hazardous substances and other pollutants from properties called “brownfields” so redevelopment or reuse of the land can begin safely.
“With today’s announcement, we’re turning blight into might for communities across America,” said Michael S. Regan, EPA administrator. “EPA’s Brownfields Program breathes new life into communities by helping to turn contaminated and potentially dangerous sites into productive economic contributors.”
In Idaho, the grants include a half-million-dollar Brownfields Assessment Grant for Pocatello, which will use the funding to assess the polluted lands such as former railyards, gas stations, machine shops, and a slaughterhouse for reuse.
The city plans a public website and public feedback sessions for the projects. Southcentral Idaho, around Twin Falls, will also receive funding for sites via a $750,000 grant to the Region IV Development Association, Inc. to assess and redevelop sites like the Globe Seed & Feed and the Jerome Tire.
Additionally, the Southeast Idaho Council of Governments will use $1 million in EPA grant funds to clean up locations in seven counties in the region. This restoration includes the old industrial facilities, a polysilicon plant, and numerous historic properties contaminated by metals.
“The city of Pocatello is working hard to provide opportunities to revitalize properties in the heart of the city,” said Brent McLane, the city’s planning and development services director. “There are many properties within the city that are potential brownfields, and this grant will offer possible resources to property owners to help with environmental studies or site planning. I am also excited to engage with the public in creating a vision for some blighted areas within Pocatello.”
The Brownfields Program is a part of the federal government’s Justice40 Initiative, which stipulates that at least 40% of the benefits of federal environmental investment must go to underserved or disadvantaged communities.
With almost a half million brownfields across the country, a focus on clearing and redeveloping these previously-used but polluted sites helps communities by creating new jobs, increasing local tax bases, and taking development pressure off wild lands.
Cleaning up brownfields is an essential step in protecting the environment. By removing dangerous chemicals and contaminants that make the lands unusable, communities create chances for clean and healthy economic growth in blighted areas. Reusing this pre-existing infrastructure also prevents further clearing of undeveloped lands and helps support the re-energizing of communities. In Idaho, grant recipients are hopeful for the new opportunities the Brownfields Program grants provide.
“[We are] excited to have this opportunity,” said Jim Johnston, Southeast Idaho Council of Governments board member. “With these funds, we are able to help communities, developers, realtors, contractors, and small business owners improve properties with brownfield issues.”