For Immediate Release: January 27, 2008
Events Build Florida’s Capacity to Promote Community Vitality through Brownfields Redevelopment
(Washington, DC) — Left alone, Brownfields are a cost to society. They can drain the economy, pose/present safety and environmental challenges and blight community health and vitality. On the other hand, Brownfields Redevelopment can stimulate the economy, eliminate risk to our health and environment, and revitalize communities. Florida continues to lead the country in this area. Over the past three days, significant progress has been achieved to advance this urgent need for community revitalization. This progress is the result of a series of unique events-outlined below-that serve the common goal of community development and improved public health.
Orlando Workshop:Community Justice and Health Workshop
Over 100 leaders representing a cross section of society participated in a day long workshop in Orlando, on Friday, January 25, which was both informative and interactive. The workshop educated community based organizations, residents, and non-profit associations about the basics of Brownfield Redevelopment and how to access resources available through Brownfield programs, such as funding and technical assistance. Brownfields consultants, pro-bono lawyers, and government officials were also in attendance, and the workshop provided time for these varied groups to come together and develop specific plans of action for their communities, utilizing the tools and strategies presented during the workshop. The event featured Florida State Senator Lee Constantine (R-District 22) and Florida State Representative Scott Randolph (D-District 36), Cynthia Peurifoy, Environmental Justice Coordinator from US EPA Region 4, plus Roger Register, President of the Florida Brownfields Association, and Suzi Ruhl, Director of the Environmental Law Institute’s Public Health and Law Program.
“During a period of bleak news about the economy and state of our affairs for our country, these events are like a breath of fresh air. Diverse stakeholders, many of whom have not worked together and some who have even had disagreements in the past, came together to find common ground and solutions to our state’s challenges.”
— Suzi Ruhl, Workshop Director
ELI and Florida Legal Services Dialogue
ELI and the Florida Legal Services co-sponsored a facilitated dialogue that addresses the urgent need for affordable housing for youth at risk. Florida currently has a population of 6269 former foster children between the ages of 18 and 23. Without family support, many struggle to find safe, affordable housing. Approximately one-third of Florida’s foster children will be homeless within three years of aging out of the system. Through this workshop, ELI and FLS convened representatives from the private sector, government, and philanthropic organizations to explore Brownfield Redevelopment as a solution to the affordable housing challenges that at-risk youth face.
Florida Brownfields Association Board Meeting
The FBA convened its annual strategic planning meeting. A predominant topic was the opportunity to increase capacity for brownfields to address community health and vitality through model legislation prepared by ELI and the FBA.
About Brownfields Redevelopment
Brownfields Redevelopment is an important tool for the revitalization of Florida communities. It stimulates the economy though job creation, reduces pollution, and improves public health by eliminating safety hazards.
Brownfields sites themselves are costing Florida communities in numerous respects. As abandoned or underutilized properties with actual or perceived contamination, brownfields sites remain economically unproductive and are a drain to the state and local tax base. As such, they are often blights to communities. Florida’s Brownfields program, established in 1997, seeks to encourage the cleanup of redevelopment of Brownfields sites and return them to productive reuse through the availability of state regulatory and financial incentives. Brownfields have brought revenue to the State of Florida—over the past 15 years, communities within Florida have received over $15 million dollars from the US EPA. Local governments receiving such grants include Ft Myers, Tampa. St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Miami, Gainesville, Ocala, and Stuart, among other cities throughout the state.
About the Environmental Law Institute (ELI)
ELI makes law work for people, places, and the planet. The Institute has played a pivotal role in shaping the fields of environmental law, policy, and management, domestically and abroad. Today, ELI is an internationally recognized, independent, non-partisan research and education center working to strengthen environmental protection by improving law and governance worldwide.
ELI delivers timely, insightful, impartial analysis to opinion makers, including government officials, environmental and business leaders, academics, members of the environmental bar, and journalists. ELI is a clearinghouse and a town hall, providing common ground for debate on important environmental issues.
Suzi Ruhl has worked with ELI as Director of the Public Health and Law Center and Senior Attorney since 2002. Her work seeks to integrate public health with environmental protection, economic development, and good governance. Current projects include using environmental laws and alternative dispute resolution methods to advance environmental justice, to improve community health through Brownfields Redevelopment, and to address drinking water and security needs.
Before to coming to ELI, Ms. Ruhl was the founder and President of the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation, a public interest law firm that helps disadvantaged people in the South address pollution of their land, water and air. She authored and secured adoption of legislation establishing several environmental health and public participation programs in the State of Florida.
The Florida Brownfields Association (FBA), founded in 2002, is a non-profit organization made up of: community leaders, local, state, and federal agency representatives, developers, regulatory and legal experts, environmental professionals, and academics. The association seeks to promote brownfield-related goals, such as: environmental protection, economic revitalization, environmental equity and justice, and public health.
The Environmental Law Institute® is an independent, non-profit
research and educational organization based in Washington, DC. The Institute
serves the environmental profession in business, government, the private bar,
public interest organizations, academia, and the press. For further information
from the Environmental Law Institute, please contact Brett Kitchen at 202-939-3833