Addressing Barriers to Brownfield Redevelopment: An Analysis of CERCLA and the Voluntary Cleanup Programs of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan

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Virginia Tech

Across America, thousands of old industrial or commercial facilities lay abandoned, idle or under-utilized due to real or perceived environmental contamination. These sites, called brownfields, present an opportunity to repair environmental damage and encourage economic development. In 1980, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) to address contaminated sites. This law enables the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to force the cleanup of contaminated sites by using the â polluter paysâ principle. In some cases, CERCLAâ s liability scheme, strict cleanup standards and the lawâ s tendency to produce long and expensive cleanups, discourage brownfield reuse.

In an effort to remedy the negative consequences of CERCLA, 47 states have enacted Voluntary Cleanup Programs (VCPs). A VCP generically denotes a form of legislation enacted by a state to encourage the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields under the guidance of an authorized state agency. State VCPs utilize liability protection, streamlined cleanup procedures, and financial support to promote brownfield reuse. This paper examines the VCPs of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan to explore how these states address CERCLAâ s barriers to brownfield redevelopment. In addition, this paper offers recommendations for the development and improvement of VCPs in the future.

brownfield, environmental laws, state voluntary cleanup program, redevelopment, CERCLA