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State lawmakers must extend brownfield cleanup program

Unless extended, the brownfield cleanup program is set to expire in 2015. Allowing it to do so would be a tremendous setback for redevelopment in Buffalo.

Brownfields, many contaminated by low levels of hazardous waste and pollution, are prevalent in our community and can be reused if properly remediated. Cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields helps to reduce sprawl, creates jobs and returns underutilized properties back to the tax rolls.

Cleanup is expensive, however, and potential owners are often reluctant to assume the risks involved in redeveloping a contaminated property. The program has alleviated these concerns by providing liability relief and tax incentives for cleanup and redevelopment, with added incentives for investment in areas with high poverty and high unemployment rates.

Most of Buffalo’s brownfields qualify for these added incentives. Since the law’s enactment, 17 Buffalo brownfields have been successfully remediated under the program, with more than a dozen currently undergoing the remediation process. Cleanup and redevelopment efforts are helping to reduce blight in our neighborhoods and transform our downtown and waterfront.

Today, however, uncertainty concerning the program’s looming expiration is beginning to create barriers to redevelopment. The remediation process can take years, and because eligibility for the incentives is tied to completing remediation, many looking to enter the program are concerned whether these incentives will be available to them further down the road.

Differences concerning eligibility and costs have divided our state government. The longer it takes to extend the program, the greater the uncertainty surrounding the future of the program and the greater the loss for our community. This is not an issue that can wait until the eleventh hour.

Brian Sarama

Buffalo