Don’t It Make Your Brownfields Green

Over the past few years, there has been a strong movement for the cleanup of brownfields sites — areas contaminated by former industrial properties.

To help communities afford this cleanup, and to redevelop brownfields areas into aesthetically pleasing, useful properties, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established three specific funding programs.

This funding does not come easily, as cities are required to participate in an extensive, detailed application processes to receive money. For cities new to the funding application process, this money can seem unattainable.

Writing a successful grant application is not a quick or easy task. But once you begin to feel comfortable with the application, the process becomes manageable and much less intimidating.

While there is considerable homework that must be completed before you can even begin to prepare the proposal, writing your application will be a snap once all of the information is assembled on your desk.

Writing for the EPA

There are three EPA grants available to communities seeking funding for the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields sites, each with different requirements and criteria for the distribution of funds.

Becoming familiar with the criteria is an essential first step, not only because it will help you successfully secure the funds you need, but knowledge of the intricacies of each grant’s requirements will help you determine which of the EPA’s grants is the best fit for your community.

To successfully win an EPA grant, you must meet two types of criteria within each of the three grants. The first type is Threshold Criteria. These pass/fail criteria can be intimidating because failure to meet even one of the criteria means that your application will be immediately dismissed, and you will not be allowed to re-submit an application for at least one year.

The second type of criteria is Ranking Criteria. In this category, you are asked to provide the who, what, why and how of your funding proposal, and each criterion is given a score. The projects receiving the highest total scores will be the ones that receive the EPA dollars.

Below are tips on how to put your best foot forward when applying for the three available brownfields grants: the Brownfields Assessment Grant Program, the Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund Program and the Cleanup Grant.

Brownfields Assessment Grant (BAG) Program

The BAG offers up to $200,000 per site, with a waiver allowing up to $350,000 per site. Applicants can also apply for up to $200,000 for hazardous material assessments and an additional $200,000 for petroleum contaminant assessments.

Threshold Criteria

The first of the Threshold Criteria is Applicant Eligibility, which determines exactly that –- your eligibility to apply. Eligible agencies include local units of government, land clearance authorities and other quasi-governmental entities, and governmental entities created by state legislatures, regional councils, redevelopment agencies sanctioned by states, states or Indian tribes.

Community Notification is the second criterion you must meet. The BAG requires that you describe how your targeted community has been notified of the preparation and submission of your grant proposal and provided an opportunity to voice their opinions prior to the proposal submission.

Practical solutions for meeting this requirement are to hold an open house, host a Web site and keep copies of the proposal at the Clerk’s office or library.

After completing these and other public information activities, be sure to document them so that including them in your application is simple.

A letter from the state or the tribal environmental authority is another requirement within the Threshold Criteria of the BAG. To meet this requirement, consult with your environmental representative and EPA regional office. The EPA simply hopes to determine that the state or tribal agency associated with your proposed project is aware that you are pursuing EPA funding.

Of the most significant within the Threshold Criteria category are Site Eligibility and Property Ownership Eligibility. This is where you must communicate why the EPA should invest federal money in your project even though a viable, responsible party may be connected with the site you are considering for cleanup.

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