On the anniversary of Obama’s first year in office, one of the major criticisms heard from the environmental community was that the administration was taking a less than productive approach to cleaning up Superfund sites, some of the most polluted and dangerous areas of the country.
Many were shocked when Obama’s EPA announced that that over its first three years it would clean up fewer Superfund sites than any administration since 1991, including that of George W. Bush (Mongabay.com).
Nevertheless, the agency seems to be working hard to reverse the lackluster reputation it has garnered for itself, cracking down on mountaintop removal mining, toxic chemicals in consumer products, and most recently, the Superfund site’s oft-ignored younger sibling, the brownfield.
Last week in New Orleans, La., EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced that EPA is awarding more than $2 million in job training grants for environmental cleanups in communities across the country.
The agency’s Brownfields Job Training Program helps train people for jobs in the assessment, cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields properties, including abandoned gas stations, old textile mills, closed smelters, and other abandoned industrial and commercial properties. These investments target under-served and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods – places where environmental cleanups and new jobs are most needed.
Brownfield sites are industrial and commercial facilities that are afflicted with low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution. Although they could be restored and reused, many of these sites are simply abandoned because of the cost of remediation.
“By recruiting, training and employing local residents to clean up the community, we get the best of both worlds: new jobs and a cleaner community,” said EPA Administrator Jackson. “Transforming abandoned and contaminated sites sets the stage for bustling business centers, new parks and other developments. It shows that the right thing to do for the environment is the right thing to do for the economy.”
Twelve governmental entities and non-profit organizations in 10 states are receiving up to $200,000 each to train people in the cleanup of these abandoned and possibly polluted properties, while also providing training in other environmental skills, such as green building design, energy efficiency, weatherization, solar installation, green construction, and native plant revegetation.
The brownfields job training grants will focus on recruiting residents living near brownfields sites in California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Washington.
Image Credit: Flickr - Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection
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