Governor’s Press Release

BALTIMORE (November 21, 2003) – Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. today announced major reforms to the state’s brownfield cleanup program, making it easier for developers to join the volunteer cleanup and redevelopment of the contaminated industrial sites. Governor Ehrlich also announced that a coordinator will be hired to market the program, work with local governments and developers and market sites with strong development potential.

“Cleaning up brownfield properties and putting them back into productive use has been a priority of my administration from day one,” the governor said. “Today we are announcing across-the-board changes in the way we run and market the voluntary cleanup program.”

Brownfields are properties contaminated, or thought to be contaminated, with industrial wastes or other pollutants. Once cleaned, they are ideal sites for development because they are near existing infrastructure and population centers.
“In addition to cleaning up contamination,” Governor Ehrlich said, “a successful brownfields program leads to more jobs, increased tax revenues and revitalized communities.”

Governor Ehrlich said the decision to create the redevelopment coordinator position is the key to his brownfield initiative. “Maryland’s old program was too often reactive. As a result, customer service suffered and there was a lack of certainty about the process and the amount of time required to get approval. Today’s announcement solves those problems.”

Key reforms of the brownfield program include:

  • The Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) application has been overhauled, cut from 22 pages to eight pages, with a simple checklist that will help developers submit an application that meets agency requirements.
  • A comprehensive guide has been developed to provide step-by-step instructions, sample applications and FAQs.
  • The VCP will have its own web site, hosted by Department of the Environment servers. It has its own URL and distinctive design.
  • A marketing plan is being developed to promote the VCP.
  • MDE will continue to provide workshops and training for consultant, bankers, developers and local governments.
  • A geographic information system (GIS) mapping function on the web site, along with Internet access to public records of sites, will greatly expand the quantity and quality of information that is available.

Kendl P. Philbrick, Acting Secretary of the Environment, said the initial response from stakeholders has been very positive. “When we began working on these reforms, we had input from local governments, developers, consultants, lenders and environmentalists, and we listened very closely. This is a very customer-friendly program today, and one that will benefit Maryland’s environment and economy.”

He said that program staff have been trained to be more responsive to applicants, which will improve overall review of cleanup plans.

“When there is a problem,” Philbrick said, “we are going to pick up the phone or send an e-mail. We understand that time is important to development decisions, and we’re going to operate in real time with this program.”

The Voluntary Cleanup Program was enacted in 1997. VCP provides a release of liability and “certainty” regarding environmental requirements. It provides timelines for MDE reviews and determinations. Companion legislation created the Brownfields Revitalization Incentive Program under the Department of Business and Economic Development.