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Bush Signs Law to Encourage Development of Waste Sites - 2002-01-11

President Bush Friday signed a new law encouraging the clean-up and redevelopment of old industrial sites. Mr. Bush doubled federal spending for programs meant to protect the environment and create new jobs.

In corporate offices built over a former iron works, President Bush unveiled a series of new measures to encourage American business to redevelop abandoned industrial properties. The sites which have come to be known as "brownfields" are often ignored because of potential contamination from industrial waste.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says there as many as one million brownfields across the country, mostly in urban areas. Agency chief Christine Whitman said the new measures help both businesses and local communities reclaim that land.

"This bill is going to give communities all across the country the tools they need to reclaim and restore the thousands of brownfields those sites that are considered potentially contaminated, that have been environmental drains on the neighborhoods in which they are located," Ms. Whitman said.

The new law gives tax incentives to businesses redeveloping brownfield sites with government estimates that $300 million in tax breaks generate more than $3 billion in private investment to redevelop some 8,000 sites.

President Bush is budgeting another $200 million to help states and local communities revitalize industrial sites. That is more than double what the government spends on the program now. Mr. Bush says it is part of his effort to balance environmental protection with economic opportunity. "All of us have a responsibility to be the stewards of our land. When we use the land, we must do so wisely and responsibly, balancing the needs of the environment with the best interests of those who live and work on the land," the president said.

The new measures also reform federal laws governing toxic clean-ups by providing liability protection for prospective buyers, neighboring properties and small businesses who sent waste or trash to sites that became contaminated. President Bush says the changes protect small business owners while ensuring that polluted sites continue to be cleaned-up by those most responsible for the contamination. "Lawyers and governments used to tell small business owners that because they sent their trash to a landfill, and because that landfill became contaminated, they were potentially liable for cleaning up the entire site," the president said. "When government acts in such a heavy-handed way, it hurts a lot people. It works against its own purposes. It discourages small business growth."

President Bush says the new law returns "common sense" to toxic cleanups by showing that environmental protection and economic growth can go together.