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DER, COMMERCE TO ENCOURAGE REUSE OF VACANT INDUSTRIAL SITES

 HARRISBURG, Pa., Feb. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- The state departments of Environmental Resources and Commerce today announced a four-point program to encourage the reuse of former industrial sites as an alternative to the development of Pennsylvania's pristine lands.
 Unveiled by state Department of Environmental Resources (DER) Secretary Arthur A. Davis and Commerce Secretary Andrew T. Greenberg, the plan is aimed at vacant industrial properties which may suffer from ground or water pollution.
 It includes:
 -- limits on environmental liability for prospective purchasers of former industrial sites in which a party legally responsible for past environmental damage cannot be found.
 -- $1 million in state Hazardous Sites Clean-up Act funds for environmental assessments at industrial sites.
 -- proposed legislation to limit liability for industrial development organizations, municipalities, counties and redevelopment authorities.
 -- clarification of the limited role that DER plays in traditional private property transactions.
 "These steps help strike a balance between our economic development and environmental protection needs as they relate to these industrial sites," Davis said.
 "By working to bring contaminated industrial sites back to productive use, we're giving developers options other than pristine tracts, or greenfields, for projects."
 Greenberg said the plan is an important step in bringing economic revitalization to industrial areas of the state.
 "In many communities, the only property viable for industrial development is now occupied by a shuttered steel mill or other industry," Greenberg said.
 "The liability for the environmental impact of the site's previous industrial use becomes a make-or-break issue in redeveloping the sites."
 The program calls for a prospective purchaser to perform an environmental assessment of the site to determine the level of existing contamination.
 The purchaser must sign an agreement to eliminate or abate any immediate environmental and health threats, prevent contamination of neighboring properties and assure proper disposal of any wastes that may be in containers.
 The purchaser will have no other responsibility for conditions identified in the environmental assessment.
 "These standards will limit the liability of new purchasers to just those contaminants that they have added to the site, so long as they address the most immediate environmental and health threats," Davis said.
 "The program will help allow sites to be developed while protecting the public's health and safety and preventing additional environmental harm."
 Davis also said that DER will provide information to assist with environmental audits of properties. However, he said the department has no authority to certify that properties are free of hazards or to offer an opinion that a property is safe.
 Greenberg said the proposed legislation addresses the liability of municipalities, industrial development corporations, redevelopment authorities and other public or quasi-public organizations which often take title to a property in order to obtain public financing for a project.
 For example, Greenberg said, an industrial development corporation or other agency will acquire a parcel from a private developer and then either sell it or lease it to the industrial user so the project can be eligible for state financing.
 Liability as a result of assuming ownership is a daily "real-world hazard" for these agencies, Greenberg said.
 "State law already shields banks and other private lending institutions from liability," Greenberg said. "We now need legislation to extend comparable protection to public and quasi-public agencies engaged in economic development throughout the Commonwealth."
 Greenberg added that the industrial property reuse initiative is another step in the Casey administration's effort to help industrial communities.
 In 1988, Gov. Robert P. Casey launched the Regional Opportunities Initiative to make improvements to induce new business investment at industrial sites.
 In four years, the program has invested more than $285 million in 210 projects, leveraging nearly $1 billion in non-state funds.
 The investments have helped to attract businesses that will either create or retain more than 10,000 jobs.
 DER is making available $1 million in hazardous sites clean-up funding to augment the financing programs of the Department of Commerce.
 Funds will be available on a pilot project basis to perform site assessments on abandoned sites. The program will be administered by the Department of Commerce.
 "This pilot program will use some of the funds received from hazardous waste generators to help abandoned industrial sites come back into use," Greenberg said. "It's a good example of how environmental protection and economic development can come together."
 /delval/
 -0- 2/3/93
 /CONTACT: Spike Lukens of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources, 717-787-1323, or Ron Jury of the Pennsylvania Department of Commerce, 717-783-1132/


CO: Department of Commerce; Department of Environmental Resources ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:

CC -- PH035 -- 2546 02/03/93 15:47 EST
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Date:Feb 3, 1993
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