News Editorial Board

Brownfield grants have the power to remake entire communities, helping to transform brownfields into productive and even tax-paying entities. In addition, the environmental depollution that results from such action is one of the main improvements needed to improve the health and well-being of people living near the sites.

So it is with relief to anyone who cares about the spaces in and around this area that Niagara County is set to receive $3.9 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up and redevelop brownfield sites.

The EPA grant will enable the Niagara County Brownfields Program to partner with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. While the county is home to several hundred brownfields, officials say the focus will be on contaminated and tax-delinquent properties. The Niagara County Brownfields Program will take possession temporarily.

The county has used EPA grants through its Niagara County Brownfields Program, so the $3.9 million grant will continue that work, according to a county official. That says a lot about how the county has used these grants that the EPA has selected — and that this is the largest amount awarded in New York. Twelve grants were awarded in New York, totaling $10.5 million.

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The recent federal infrastructure bill plays an important role in the cleanup. It has provided the EPA with $1.5 billion, part of which is intended to fund the brownfields program. Without this money, communities across the country would be left without the resources needed for this cleanup.

Previous EPA grants totaling $9.5 million have been awarded to Niagara County, including $2.3 million for brownfields cleanup.

Representative Brian Higgins spoke about the EPA grant that leverages millions of dollars of private investment in other places across the country through brownfield grants. He expects the same to happen in Niagara County. It is a hopeful and yet practical prediction. Indeed, beyond the need for responsible management of our environment, this is a main reason for incurring this significant expense.

State Senator Robert Ortt noted the effect of brownfield dollars on North Tonawanda, reflecting on a “rebirth, rebirth” similar to Buffalo and much of Western New York. This latest announcement of federal dollars should continue this momentum.

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