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What to do with Superfund, Brownfield Sites? EPA has an answer

Landowners, some reeling after years of costly regulatory scrutiny and enforcement actions, often find themselves at a loss with what to do with Superfund sites, brownfields and former landfills and tapped-out mines. Well, on Feb. 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offered at least one possible solution: develop renewable energy facilities on these tainted lands.

The idea would appear to appeal to landowners stuck with contaminated property they can not otherwise develop, and to green energy advocates who are constantly seeking new, easily developed spots for their solar, wind and biomass projects. Often the latter face a long and excruciated permit process. So is the EPA killing two birds with one stone? Perhaps.

The EPA is teaming with its colleagues at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the project, which is called “Re-Powering America’s Land” or RE-PAL. In addition to its potential to benefit landowners and renewable energy developers, the project has also been touted as a way to generate jobs in the down economy and to fix blighted properties located in depressed communities. The EPA also notes that many of these sites are already connected to readily-useable transmission lines — yet another hurdle renewable power generators often face.

So far, the EPA and Department of Energy have set aside $650,000 to study the idea, and they have identified 12 potential sites in California, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The EPA cited numerous renewable energy projects that have already been developed on contaminated lands, including one in California. There, rooftop solar panels have been installed at a wastewater treatment plant at the Pamaco Superfund Site in Maywood. Likewise, a huge solar panel project has been installed at a former uranium processing plant in Colorado, and a wind farm has been placed atop a slag heap in New York.

Categories: Contaminated Property