published July 31, 2001
State, U.S. pact prods firms to
clean up urban pollution
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
COLUMBUS - Federal
and state officials will sign an agreement today that could entice
more businesses to analyze whether urban land is polluted and then
clean it up.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the
U.S. EPA have worked since October, 1999, on the pact, which was
negotiated in reaction to federal concerns about Ohio’s "brownfield"
The agreement will enable businesses and local
governments to choose between Ohio’s Voluntary Action Program and a
new program that will require citizen involvement in cleanup plans
and more oversight by state environmental regulators.
the program, the federal government will pledge that it won’t take
legal or enforcement action unless the site poses a danger to the
That should remove an obstacle that has prevented
some Ohio businesses from entering the Voluntary Action Program,
Ohio EPA Director Chris Jones said.
Under that program,
established by a 1994 state law, property owners, lenders, and
developers are allowed to investigate and clean polluted sites with
standards based on whether the property will be used for homes,
businesses, or large industries. Old dumps and Superfund sites are
not eligible for the Voluntary Action Program.
guidelines are met, the Ohio EPA releases the owner from state civil
liability. But the U.S. EPA has refused to approve Ohio’s brownfield
Over the last seven years, businesses and local
governments have received 79 "covenants not to sue" from the state
But Marc Conte, legislative coordinator of the Ohio
chapter of the Sierra Club, said the state should have focused on
"reforming" the action program, instead of setting up a two-track
system to clean up brownfields.
"We really think we need one
program and we need a good one," Mr. Conte said.
will be signed by Mr. Jones and David Ullrich, U.S. EPA deputy
regional administrator, five days after Governor Taft signs a bill
that will guide how the state distributes bond proceeds to help
clean up brownfields.