Environmental Protection:

Agencies Have Made Progress in Implementing the Federal Brownfield Partnership Initiative

RCED-99-86: Published: Apr 9, 1999. Publicly Released: May 10, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the status of 10 federal agencies' efforts to implement the Brownfield National Partnership Action Agenda, focusing on: (1) comparing federal agencies' planned financial assistance to brownfields, which are abandoned, idle, or underused industrial facilities, to their actual spending for brownfields in fiscal years (FY) 1997 and 1998; (2) describing the purposes of these obligations; and (3) determining the extent to which agencies met the Partnership's goals and objectives.

GAO noted that: (1) during FY 1997 and FY 1998, the 10 federal agencies GAO examined reported that they provided about $413 million in assistance to brownfields, as compared to the Partnership's planned financial assistance of $469 million; (2) brownfield managers at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also told GAO that the agency may have provided more financial assistance for brownfields than it reported because it provided most of its financial assistance through its Community Development Block Grant program; (3) about one-half of the total assistance that agencies provided for grant programs was from new funds made available for brownfields; (4) the remainder represented funds that the agencies had traditionally been providing to low-income and depressed communities under their community and economic development grant programs, not new or reprogrammed funds for brownfields; (5) HUD, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Economic Development Administration were responsible for $409 million, or 99 percent of the assistance provided; (6) the three agencies used most of the funds to make grants and loan guarantees to communities; (7) the 10 federal agencies in GAO's review reported achieving better coordination and accomplishing their brownfield action items but do not have comprehensive data to determine the extent to which this will result in the expected economic benefits of jobs and private investment in brownfields; (8) the agencies reported that they increased their ongoing coordination as a result of the Partnership initiative, most noticeably through their showcase community projects; (9) the agencies also completed about 89 percent of their action items in the Partnership Agenda, such as revising policies that were barriers to brownfield redevelopment and providing communities more information about available assistance, predominantly as part of their ongoing programs; and (10) however, the extent to which the Partnership initiative is meeting the economic goals--creating new jobs, leveraging additional private investments in brownfields, and preserving greenfields--cannot be determined because most agencies are not tracking all of these outcomes or collecting data specific to brownfields that would allow them to do so.

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