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4/1/1996 | 2 MINUTE READ

Calvin Comments on Brownfields

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One of my favorite comic strips is Calvin and Hobbes, which involves a six-year-old boy and his "living" stuffed tiger.


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One of my favorite comic strips is Calvin and Hobbes, which involves a six-year-old boy and his "living" stuffed tiger. One afternoon, Calvin and Hobbes are walking through the woods. Calvin says, "Hey! What happened to the trees here? Who cleared out the woods? There used to be lots of animals in these woods! Now it's a mud pit!"

Hobbes notes, "This sign says, `Future site of Shady Acres Condominiums.'"

To which Calvin screams, "Animals can't afford condos! Where are all the animals supposed to live now that they cut down these woods to put in houses??? By golly, how would people like it if animals bulldozed a suburb and put in new trees?!? After they build new houses here, they will have to widen the roads and put up gas stations and pretty soon the whole area will just be a big strip. Eventually there won't be a nice spot left anywhere.

"I wonder if you can refuse to inherit the world?"

Hobbes replies, "I think if you're born, it's too late."

Although humorous, I too am concerned about land development, of all kinds. Will my children and grandchildren enjoy trees, fields and streams the way I have been fortunate to experience?

This is why the Brownfield movement, which aims to transform environmental trouble spots (old finishing facilities, for example) into new developments makes sense. Brownfields are abandoned, contaminated industrial sites that are redeveloped for use as new industrial sites.

On January 25, 1995, the EPA issued its Brownfield Action Agenda. Administrator Browner stated, "We at EPA firmly believe that environmental cleanup is a building block to economic development, not a stumbling block. EPA's Brownfield Economic Redevelopment Initiative is an organized commitment to help communities revitalize idle or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where redevelopment is complicated by environmental contamination."

Plenty of Brownfields exist in the United States. The U.S. General Accounting Office estimates that there are approximately 425,000 sites. A recent survey by the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission noted that 18 pct of Chicago's industrial land is vacant or inactive. There are 2,000 Brownfields in the city and another 500 to 1,000 elsewhere in the six-county region. Twenty-five states now have Brownfield programs.

The EPA is helping with cleanup. On May 11, 1995, the Brownfield Cleanup and Redevelopment Revolving Loan Fund Pilot Project Act of 1996, was issued. This legislation establishes a revolving loan program to provide financing for development of Brownfield sites. Also, HR 2178 provides for redevelopment of Brownfields by providing federal assistance for cleanup and other purposes.

Brownfields provide a way to "recycle" previously developed land and make it usable again, and the government and EPA are willing to help. Benefits of Brownfields are that cleanup costs are reduced, purchase price is less than for undeveloped land and there will be no delays in future transactions because of past contamination. Brownfields have great potential for industry and communities both environmentally and economically . . . just ask Calvin.

"People keep talking about opening more wilderness for development. We seem to understand the value of oil, timber, minerals and housing, but not the value of unspoiled beauty, wildlife, solitude and spiritual renewal."

Hobbes answers, "We need to start putting prices on the priceless."

And Calvin responds, "Yeah, if our woods are worth a zillion jillion bagillion, think what Alaska is worth."


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