EPA Administrator Christie Whitman praised Congress for its passage on December 19 of bipartisan Brownfields legislation. Whitman said the new legislation will make the cleanup of brownfields a more effective and cooperative effort.

"Revitalization of brownfields and new investment in our cities is essential. The passage of brownfields legislation by Congress will considerably enhance our efforts on those fronts," said Whitman. "Returning abandoned industrial sites to productive use can create jobs in areas where they are very much needed and also will improve the tax base of many communities."

Whitman added that this bipartisan legislation should help expedite the cleanup of brownfields. "By differentiating between large contributors of toxic waste and small businesses who disposed of only small amounts of waste or ordinary trash, and should not be considered responsible parties, we will be reducing litigation as well as removing barriers," said Whitman.

The measure, the Small Business Liability Relief And Brownfields Revitalization Act (HR 2869), is the companion bill to a Senate brownfields bill passed unanimously eight months ago. The brownfields bill provides $200 million annually over the next five years to states to cleanup and revitalize brownfields sites - abandoned industrial or commercial properties located primarily in urban areas.

The bill also incorporates liability changes in federal law to encourage innocent private parties to help clean up these idle sites and provides greater assurances to the states that the federal government will not later override brownfields cleanup decisions under state programs.