From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
April 25, 1997
Contact: Rick Svataro, (512) 463-0113

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

AUSTIN, Tx. -- State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today won unanimous approval of the Texas Senate for legislation (Senate Bill 1596) that would provide new incentives for businesses to clean up and redevelop contaminated "brownfields" properties. According to Ellis, the measure would allow local governments to offer a phased, four-year tax abatement 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."

Ellis said 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 land 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. To date, 328 properties across Texas are participating in the program and 90 have received certificates of completion. 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.

"By providing incentives to clean up brownfields, more Texas families will have the opportunity to live and succeed in neighborhoods with parks and jungle gyms -- not junkyards," said Ellis. "This legislation will help our children and grandchildren grow up healthier in a safer and cleaner Texas."