Overview of the New York State Brownfields Cleanup Program
Overview of the New York State Brownfields Cleanup Program June 2008 Thomas P. DiNapoli New York State Comptroller 3 Overview of BCP Accomplishments The number of sites admitted to the Program, the number of sites remediated, the geographic distribution of sites/cleanups around New York and within “Enzones” are important indicators of BCP success.3 At present, 394 sites have applied to the Program and 260 have been admitted of which 44 have been cleaned up and received a letter of completion from DEC. After being accepted into the Program, 60 sites were either withdrawn from the Program by a project sponsor, or removed from the Program by DEC. Since its inception in 1994, the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP), which preceded the BCP, cleaned up 153 sites, or roughly 11 per year.4 Under the BCP, 44 sites have received a letter of completion, or approximately 11 sites per year. Based on this measure of sites addressed, the BCP is comparable to the VCP it replaced. The VCP did not provide financial incentives to participants and was open to any site with known or suspected contamination. As discussed above, the BCP has eligibility criteria that restrict entry of minimally contaminated sites into the Program. In addition, the distribution of sites around the State and the number of sites in specially designated “Enzones” are important indicators of whether the Program is encouraging redevelopment in all regions of the State and whether the Program is meeting the goal of encouraging redevelopment in economically distressed areas. Of the 200 sites that DEC lists as currently enrolled in the Program, 77, or 38.5 percent, are located in Enzones. From a regional perspective, 32 of New York State’s 62 counties have sites enrolled in the Program. The sites are almost evenly split between upstate and downstate counties with 93 located downstate and 107 located upstate.5 The Program has received applications from sites located in more than more than 90 percent of New York State counties. 3 Enzones are census tracts that meet poverty criteria established in Chapter 1 of the Laws of 2003. In order to be designated as an Enzone, the census tract must have a poverty rate of 20 percent and an unemployment rate of at least 1.25 times the statewide unemployment rate or a poverty rate of at least double the rate for the county in which the tract is located. Census tracts qualifying as Enzones can be found on the Empire State Development Corporation website – . 4 The VCP was not authorized in statute, or regulation. The DEC ran the VCP under administrative guidance. Participants in the Program remediated sites to a level consistent with intended use under the oversight of the DEC. On completion of the cleanup, participants received a waiver of liability from the DEC, which was not binding on other agencies or the New York State Attorney General. When the BCP was created the DEC stopped accepting applications for the VCP Program. The VCP was initiated in 1994. When the BCP was established in 2003, the DEC stopped accepting applications to the VCP. A total of 757 sites were admitted to the VCP. 5 Downstate counties are considered to be Rockland, Westchester, New York City Boroughs, Nassau and Suffolk. 4 Regional Distribution of Sites in the Brownfields Cleanup Program Region Number of Sites Long Island 12 New York City 52 Hudson Valley 46 Capital District 6 North Country 3 Central New York 11 Finger Lakes 3 Southern Tier 14 Western New York 53 Based on its performance over the last four years, the BCP has achieved a number of measures of success, including: Attracting a significant number of sites from economically distressed communities, Achieving rough parity in numbers of sites from upstate and downstate, and Drawing applications from all regions of the State. While the Program is attracting interest and supporting the redevelopment of brownfields, it is currently on track to address roughly the same number of sites as the VCP it replaced. This finding is noteworthy in that the BCP offers generous financial incentives and the VCP offered no financial incentives. However, the BCP excludes sites that would have very likely been admitted into the VCP.