Bill Providing Incentives for Renewable Energy Development on Contaminated Sites Advances in Senate

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg has introduced legislation, called the Cleanfields Act of 2010, to provide incentives for the private sector to develop clean energy projects on contaminated sites. In addition, Sen. Lautenberg introduced the Cleanfields Investment Act of 2010 as a companion bill, which seeks to “authorize $50 million in grants annually for the inventory, assessment, planning, and remediation of brownfields for the purpose of locating renewable electricity facilities on those sites.”

The proposed incentives in the Cleanfields Act would work in combination with renewable energy standards which are currently being developed. Congress is considering legislation to set Renewable Electricity Standards (RES), which would require electric utilities nationwide to meet a certain percent of their electricity sales through renewable sources of energy (e.g., sun, wind, biomass, geothermal energy, hydropower) or energy efficiency. (See American Clean Energy Leadership Act.) The Cleanfields Act proposes providing triple credits for electric utilities to apply toward meeting an RES, where the renewable sources are developed on Brownfields sites as defined in CERCLA §101.

The EPA encourages renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated land already. In a renewable energy fact sheet, the EPA summarizes the benefits of government and private sector partnerships to redevelop such sites in addition to advancing cleaner and more cost effective energy technologies:

These lands are environmentally and economically beneficial for siting renewable energy facilities because they:

  • Offer thousands of acres of land with few site owners;
  • Often have critical infrastructure in place including electric transmission lines, roads and water on-site, and are adequately zoned for such development;
  • Provide an economically viable reuse for sites with significant cleanup costs or low real estate development demand;
  • Take the stress off undeveloped lands for construction of new energy facilities, preserving the land carbon sink; and
  • Provide job opportunities in urban and rural communities.

While the EPA’s initiatives address Superfund, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Brownfields, and abandoned mine lands, the Cleanfields Act is limited to sites which meet the definition of Brownfields under CERCLA §101. 42 U.S.C. 9601.