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Tuesday, July 31, 2001 Local Forecast & Weather



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Posted at 12:09 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 31, 2001

State, federal agencies reach agreement

BY JOHN MCCARTHY
Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The U.S. and Ohio Environmental Protection Agencies on Tuesday signed an agreement that both departments hope will spur redevelopment of polluted industrial sites in Ohio.

Under the agreement, the U.S. EPA endorsed Ohio's Voluntary Action Program, which has helped to clean up about 130 sites since 1997.

The U.S. EPA still could step in if it believed a cleanup was not done properly, but the idea is to give Ohio businesses a ``comfort'' level that once the state signs off on a cleanup, the federal agency won't step in, said Amy Yersavich, director of the VAP program.

The program allows Ohio business to clean up polluted sites and be freed from most civil liability once the state gives the site its approval.

Ohio EPA Director Christopher Jones and David Ullrich, deputy administrator of U.S. EPA Region 5, signed the agreement at a refurbished downtown warehouse that now is the landlord to more than a dozen businesses.

Ullrich said environmental law has long stood in the way of redevelopment, frustrating business owners and government officials alike.

``It was the unintended consequence of those laws that these properties were not being developed,'' Ullrich said. ``We have just seen a Renaissance in the Midwest.''

The agreement also pleased environmentalists who attended the signing. Federal rules will require more public input than the VAP program currently has and the Ohio EPA must get involved earlier in the process.

``That is a big step forward,'' said Bruce Cornett of the Green Environmental Coalition.

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