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EPA announces record investment to clean up abandoned and polluted sites

Randy Von Liski
Flickr Creative Commons
The EPA is awarding millions in grant funding to help towns clean abandoned and polluted buildings like this one in Rockford, Illinois.

News brief: 

The Environmental Protection Agency announced new funding last month for cleanup efforts at brownfield sites across the country. More than $315 million in grants will go towards reclaiming abandoned and polluted landscapes nationwide – including in six Mountain West states.

Communities in the region that will benefit from the money include Rawlins, Wyo., southeast Idaho and Salt Lake County, Utah. Cleanups in Nevada, Colorado and Montana will also receive new funding.

Brownfield sites are properties that are abandoned or underutilized due to environmental contamination. Often, these are dilapidated buildings, such as hotels, junkyards, factories or mills.

The money comes from the 2021's bipartisan infrastructure law and is part of the Biden administration’s larger push to address legacy pollution. EPA Administrator Michael Regan said at a recent press conference that investments like these will improve the quality of life in distressed communities.

“Hundreds of thousands of potentially dangerous sites sit idly, jeopardizing the health and economic security of local communities, many of which are economically distressed or communities of color,” he said. “Cleaning up and investing in [these communities] has the power to turn these once blighted sites into economic agents, supplying opportunities for job growth and reducing the harmful impacts to people's health and the environment.”

This is the largest single investment ever in the EPA’s brownfields program. The Interior Department also recently announced that $725 million will be available to help states and tribal nations clean abandoned mine lands.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is currently a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.
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