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Corbett Agenda- Back To Basics At DEP, Incentives For Brownfields, Grayfields Redevelopment

As part of his campaign platform, Gov.-elect Tom Corbett laid out a series of commitments on protecting the environment, developing Pennsylvania's energy resources, enhancing agriculture and promoting sportsmen's  issues.

            PA Environment Digest is taking a look at the commitments he made on returning the Department of Environmental Protection back to basics and incentives for brownfields and grayfields development--

            Pennsylvania’s environment is one of our most precious resources, and Tom Corbett is committed to protecting it with strong stewardship, direction and leadership. From helping to attract new businesses and jobs to Pennsylvania to providing countless outdoor activities for citizens, our environment plays an integral part in forging a new direction and a new era in Pennsylvania.
            Throughout his career, Tom Corbett has worked aggressively to protect Pennsylvania’s environment. As a United States Attorney, he prosecuted the first municipality in the nation for violations of the federal Clean Water Act for diverting raw sewage from its treatment plant and discharging excessive levels of pollutants into our waterways. The municipality’s conviction resulted in a $50 million consent decree requiring an upgrade of treatment operations and nearly a quarter of a million dollars being deposited into the Pennsylvania Clean Water Fund.
            As Attorney General, Tom Corbett has prosecuted dozens of environmental offenses which have resulted in significant penalties for individual and corporate polluters as well as financial investments in environmental improvement projects. In 2006, he accomplished one of his major campaign priorities from his initial run for the Office of Attorney General in 2004 – he successfully worked with the General Assembly to design tougher penalties for violations of Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law. The act brought Pennsylvania’s law in line with federal law, created a more significant deterrent to polluters and put a stop to the mentality of considering our state’s environmental fines as a cost of doing business.
            As Governor, Tom Corbett will continue his commitment to the environment by working to protect our air, land and water and will enact policies that balance economic growth with strong environmental stewardship. He will direct the Department of Environmental Protection to serve as a partner with Pennsylvania businesses, communities and local governments through a sound environmental protection program. 
            In his energy plan, Tom Corbett details how he will refocus the Department of Environmental Protection back to its core mission of protecting the environment based on sound science. At the heart of DEP’s mission to protect Pennsylvania’s air, water and land is an obligation to assist Pennsylvania’s regulated community – our citizens, local governments and job creators – in complying with laws that protect our environment. Over the past few years, DEP was directed to change its focus and move away from its core mission. Consequently, the citizens and employers of Pennsylvania have been left underserved. 
            As Governor, Tom Corbett will direct DEP to return to its core mission of helping people comply with Pennsylvania laws and regulations. He will achieve this goal through strong leadership and management and a focus on six actions within the department to set the tone of “getting back to basics.” The following is a highlight of the ideas from his energy plan.
-- Eliminate the permit backlog. Tom Corbett will eliminate the permit backlog and direct the Secretary of DEP to review each of the permits on file to determine if they are still active and part of a job-creating economic development project.
-- Create the Permit Decision Guarantee Program. Tom Corbett will create a “Permit Decision Guarantee Program” to ensure timely permit decisions based on clear deadlines for each permit issued by the agency.
-- Establish a DEP Legacy Corps. Tom Corbett will establish a program to enlist retired DEP senior managers, who have vast experience and knowledge in implementing DEP’s programs, to voluntarily mentor future DEP managers through a management trainee program.
-- Review DEP programs, regulations and guidance documents. Tom Corbett will direct the DEP Secretary to initiate a review of all DEP programs and offices within the first three months and issue a report outlining necessary legislative or regulatory changes as well as current staffing capabilities.
-- Administer DEP programs with uniformity. Tom Corbett will direct the Secretary of DEP to develop an initiative to ensure uniform administration of programs within the agency and create a right of referral for applicants to the central office if they believe the field office is administering a requirement inconsistently.
-- Create a PA Environmental “Expert” Loan Program. Tom Corbett will create the “PA Environmental Expert Loan Program,” similar to the program created in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Under the Program, DEP will create relationships with academic and other institutions to allow individuals with expertise in pre-identified specialties to lend their skills to DEP for a specified period of time.
-- Direct interagency coordination & public participation. Tom Corbett will make it a priority to create pathways and break down barriers for more effective interagency communication to learn how programs in multiple agencies impact the regulated community and how those programs can be implemented more effectively.
-- Promote environmental education as a key to the future. Tom Corbett will work with DEP to develop an education program to help businesses and local governments improve their compliance rates, conservation efforts and energy efficiency opportunities.
            Revitalizing Brownfield & Grayfield Properties
            It is estimated that our vast industrial and mining heritage has left Pennsylvania with some 100,000 to 120,000 acres of potentially prime real estate sitting vacant due to the potential of environmental impacts that have been left unaddressed. Brownfields (former commercial and industrial sites) and Grayfields (mine-scarred lands) are located in Pennsylvania’s smallest towns and most rural areas as well as our cities and urban areas.
            Tom Corbett believes that revitalization of brownfield and grayfield properties is a winning proposition for both the environment and the economy. In addition to removing environmental threats, a redeveloped brownfield or grayfield property often serves as the keystone of a community's successful economic revitalization. As Governor, Tom Corbett will work to harness these resources and grow economic development opportunities across the state.
-- Refocus and consolidate site remediation programs. Pennsylvania's approach to the redevelopment of brownfields has been a national model for transforming abandoned, idle properties into economic opportunities. However, changes are needed to meet growing demands. As part of his efforts to return DEP to its core mission, Tom Corbett will consolidate all of the agency’s site remediation programs under the direction of an existing deputate, which will be titled, Environmental Cleanup Deputate. Programs such as the Land Recycling Program, the Storage Tank and the Federal Facilities Group would be directed through one office, thereby eliminating duplicate responsibilities. This new structure would more closely align environmental cleanup programs in the DEP regional offices and facilitate more consistent application of regulations and policies and ensure timely decision-making.
-- Reinvigorate the Brownfield Action Team. To accelerate redevelopment projects and to give investors additional incentive to clean up contaminated sites and return them to productive use, Tom Corbett will reinvigorate the Brownfield Action Team (BAT) by dedicating an existing policy specialist position within DEP to coordinate its activities. The BAT serves as a single-point-of-contact system designed to streamline the DEP permitting process and accelerate redevelopment efforts for those sites that local officials target as redevelopment priorities. The team works closely with the other state agencies, especially the Governor’s Action Team and the Community Action Team, to provide one-stop shopping for technical and financing strategies.
-- Support Reinvestment in Brownfields Programs. Brownfield redevelopment yields an impressive return on investment for Pennsylvania’s taxpayers. On average, every public dollar invested in a brownfield revitalization project at the minimum leverages a matching investment from the private sector and, in some cases, has attracted up to three or four times that much for every tax dollar invested. Due to budget cuts, many of the state’s most successful brownfield funding programs are hurting and are in jeopardy of losing their funding. As Governor, Tom Corbett will rejuvenate brownfield reinvestment by reallocating low-performing funds to yield a higher investment and create a performance-based funding program that pays for itself upfront.
-- Improve rail utilization through brownfield development. Through the years, federal and state funding has been dedicated to rail infrastructure improvements in Pennsylvania. These infrastructure improvements help to grow job creation opportunities and by opening up Pennsylvania manufacturing to other markets and improving commuter corridors. Many rail infrastructure projects are located within brownfield sites and must resolve cleanup issues before economic and environmental benefits can be achieved. As Governor, Tom Corbett will establish an interagency task force between PennDOT and DEP to identify and prioritize federal and state funding for brownfield redevelopment projects that improve rail utilization. The task force also will be required to facilitate permit and review streamlining through both agencies for brownfield and rail infrastructure projects.
-- Establish the Pennsylvania Brownfield Reimbursement Program. To jumpstart additional brownfield redevelopment, Tom Corbett will work with the General Assembly to create a new performance-based brownfield funding program called the “Pennsylvania Brownfield Reimbursement Program.” This revenue generating initiative would provide reimbursement for up to 75 percent of cleanup-related costs incurred at Brownfield or Grayfield sites in the form of a tax reimbursement. The program would be housed within DCED to complement existing funding programs, but would be coordinated with DEP. The program would be modeled after a successful New Jersey program, which has reimbursed roughly $21 million and generated more than $140 million in new tax revenue for the state.
-- Reclaim and revitalize mine-scarred lands. While Pennsylvania has no shortage of mine- scarred lands, it does lack a cohesive and comprehensive approach to the redevelopment of these grayfield properties. As Governor, Tom Corbett will utilize existing resources and draw from the successes of Pennsylvania’s brownfield revitalization efforts to establish a focused effort and dedicated set of resources to address the need to revitalize mine-scarred lands with same level of certainty and vigor.
-- Incorporate renewable energy through brightfield sites. As the country looks for new and more inventive ways to obtain energy independence, Pennsylvania has a unique opportunity to turn one if its greatest challenges into one of its greatest assets. Many of our brownfield and grayfield sites are prime candidates for alternative and renewable energy projects, particularly solar projects. Putting these “impaired” lands back into productive use with no additional threats of further contamination, saves green space and helps to further the goals of finding additional renewable energy sources. Referred to as "brightfields," these sites incorporate the use of solar energy on old industrial sites and decommissioned landfills and highlight how government can work with public utilities and private investors to advance the development of clean energy on environmentally challenged properties. This type of linkage represents the next generation of brownfields – where value is added through the generation of clean energy that can be used to serve local businesses and reduce energy costs. As Governor, Tom Corbett will encourage the development of brightfield sites to provide new energy options for Pennsylvania consumers.

            The complete Environmental Policy statement from Gov.-elect Corbett is available online.



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