The Brownfields Phenomenon: An Analysis of Environmental, Economic, and Community Concerns

July 1995
ELR 10337
E. Lynn Grayson and Stephen A.K. Palmer

Editors' Summary: Redeveloping abandoned urban hazardous waste sites, or brownfields, can significantly benefit developers, local communities, and the environment. Developers can purchase brownfields inexpensively, and subsequent redevelopment brings jobs to local communities and economic growth to inner cities, while allowing virgin land to remain pristine. Yet, barriers to redevelopment, such as the probability of legal liability, uncertainty regarding cleanup standards, and lenders' unwillingness to finance contaminated property, can make redevelopment extremely risky and difficult. This Article explains the nature of the brownfields problem and provides an overview of the historic, social, economic, and environmental issues that impact brownfield redevelopment. It next addresses current federal, state, and local initiatives to remedy problems associated with brownfields, and presents case studies that illustrate how brownfields may be redeveloped successfully. The Article concludes with recommendations essential to addressing and overcoming barriers to brownfields redevelopment.

Ms. Grayson is a partner with the Environmental Law Group at Jenner & Block in Chicago, Illinois. Before joining Jenner & Block, Ms. Grayson was Chief Legal Counsel for the Illinois Emergency Services and Disaster Agency and the State Emergency Response Commission, wherein she managed environmental enforcement programs. She has served as an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Illinois in the Environmental Control Division. Ms. Grayson's expertise includes defending enforcement actions, particularly in the areas of chemical and nuclear safety, emergency response, and air. Ms. Grayson is a frequent speaker at environmental conferences and has published numerous articles concerning environmental law and health- and safety-related issues. Ms. Grayson received her J.D. from Indiana University School of Law and her undergraduate degree from Franklin College. Mr. Palmer is an associate in the Environmental Law Group at Jenner & Block. Mr. Palmer's experience includes cost recovery litigation under CERCLA and RCRA, and regulatory compliance and counseling with respect to the Clean Air Act, the FWPCA, TSCA, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. Mr. Palmer received his J.D., magna cum laude, from the Boston University School of Law in 1990, where he was the Articles Editor of the Boston University Law Review. He joined Jenner & Block in 1993 after practicing at another Chicago law firm. Before entering law school, Mr. Palmer was a process engineer in the environmental consulting field and an environmental compliance officer in private industry.

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