Land Recycling, Community Revitalization, and Distributive Politics: An Analysis of EPA Brownfields Program Support

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This article examines social, economic, and political factors influencing the distribution of resources to local governments under the EPA Brownfields Program, an innovative federal effort to encourage the remediation and redevelopment of contaminated properties. Signed into law in 2002, the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act provided the program with a congressional mandate, new tools to promote reuse such as liability protections, and increased funding up to a level of $250 million per year. This article contributes to research on environmental regulatory reform with an analysis of successful and unsuccessful local government applicants for EPA Brownfields Program support between 2003 and 2007. Building on prior research, we develop a series of expectations and an empirical model, and estimate the influence of program priorities, government and civic capacity, interest group pressures, and institutional politics. Results point to significant relationships between program priorities and award patterns. Contrary both to EPA’s explicit commitments to equity and to analysis of pre-2003 award patterns, however, we find negative correlations between the proportions of local populations that are nonwhite or low-income and the likelihood of receiving an award. In addition, better-resourced governments and several dimensions of political representation show strong associations with the likelihood of winning awards. We conclude by discussing implications.