From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
April 16, 1997
Contact: Rick Svataro, (512) 463-0113

Senator Ellis Wins Approval of Measure to Clean Up Contaminated 'Brownfields' Properties

AUSTIN, Tx. -- State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today won preliminary approval for legislation (Senate Bill 1596) that would provide incentives for businesses to clean up and redevelop contaminated "brownfields" properties. The measure, which passed unanimously out of the Senate Economic Development Committee, would provide a phased, four-year tax incentive to businesses that agree to clean up and redevelop polluted properties.

"This legislation will make Texas a leader in what is becoming a national movement to redevelop the nation's brownfields," said Ellis. "By providing tax incentives for the redevelopment of polluted properties, we will boost economic development and at the same time help improve the environment."

According to Ellis, brownfields are defined as abandoned, idled or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where redevelopment is complicated by environmental contamination. A 1995 report by the federal General Accounting Office found that there are as many as 450,000 brownfield properties nationwide.

"Today in Texas, thousands of contaminated properties result in reduced property values, an inability to sell properties and often abandonment," said Ellis. "The lack of interest in cleaning up and redeveloping these sites results in an erosion of local tax bases, leaving local governments with fewer resources to invest in their communities."

Ellis said his legislation would build on existing state efforts to encourage the redevelopment of polluted properties. Texas currently removes the liability of future landowners and lenders for past contamination through the Texas Voluntary Cleanup Program administered by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. The Ellis proposal would provide an additional four-year tax incentive for the redevelopment of these properties.

"We commend Senator Ellis for his initiative on this legislation," said Leslie Fields, Environmental Justice Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. "Senate Bill 1596 is the right step in the right direction. It will encourage private-public partnerships in order to stimulate urban revitalization."

Other states such as Michigan have offered additional incentives such as seed money for site assessments, low-interest loans, and tax incentives to encourage the remediation of contaminated sites. In Chicago, local leaders recently approved property tax cuts of up to 55% for five years to owners who buy and clean up polluted properties. Ellis' legislation now goes to the full Senate for consideration.