State Comptroller Looks For Changes to Brownfield Cleanup Program
New York can cut the cost of its Brownfield Cleanup Program while at the same time making it more effective at cleaning up and reusing polluted properties.
That’s the word from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. DinNapoli says, two decades of efforts to clean up polluted sites known as "brownfields" have delivered some successes, but much more can be done.
"Thousands of contaminated sites in communities across the state continue to pose environmental and health threats and prevent economic development," DiNapoli says "The state has an opportunity now to improve the cleanup program to encourage more remediation and redevelopment of contaminated properties, and do so in a more cost-effective manner through better targeting of program dollars."
The program expires at the end of 2015, but lawmakers are expected to consider extending it.
DiNapoli recommended that the Legislature restructure the program by basing redevelopment tax credits on criteria that include the potential of a remediated site to contribute significantly to the state economy, and the likelihood of reuse or redevelopment of the site without the tax credits.
The Brownfield Cleanup Program offers property owners limited liability protection, an abbreviated process to identify a cleanup remedy and refundable tax credits of 10 to 22 percent of site cleanup and redevelopment costs.
But developers of high-end projects such as the Destiny USA shopping mall expansion in Syracuse have been able to grab millions of dollars in tax credits while spending little on cleanup.
Since 2003, 128 sites have been cleaned up through the program, at an average tax credit cost to the state of $9.4 million per site, according to the comptroller's report.