Brownfields Program

The Environmental Law Institute’s Brownfields Program encourages and supports brownfield cleanups and redevelopment and helps ensure that such efforts protect public health and respond to community preferences. Brownfields—underused or abandoned land that may be contaminated—can scar inner city neighborhoods and restrict economic opportunity. Redevelopment, properly conceived and implemented, can improve public health and the environment, increase investment, and create long-term improvements in housing, jobs, recreational opportunities, open space, and public facilities. The Brownfields Program provides information on topics relating to brownfields cleanup and redevelopment, helps community groups respond to brownfields opportunities and challenges, conducts research on the legal and policy issues associated with brownfields, and convenes key stakeholders for discussions on key issues in brownfields redevelopment.

ELI’s Brownfields Resources and Petroleum Brownfields Resource Center bring together a wide array of brownfields resources with the goal of increasing communication among groups and individuals working on brownfields issues. The resource database consists of hundreds of listings of governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, and for-profit companies working on brownfields across the country. Publications on a variety of issues provide information on brownfields, while the Community Tool Kit provides resources to enable communities to participate more fully and effectively in brownfields redevelopment. The Brownfields Glossary offers plain English descriptions of terms associated with Brownfields remediation and redevelopment and the Brownfields FAQ answers some of the questions most commonly posed about brownfields.

Our research on brownfields addresses protection of public health at brownfields and other hazardous waste sites. Protecting Public Health at Superfund Sites: Can Institutional Controls Meet the Challenge? is a series of four case studies assessing the use of institutional controls at Superfund sites and suggesting improvements in the use of institutional controls in general. ELI also published “Sustainable Redevelopment of Brownfields: Using Institutional Controls to Protect Public Health,” in The Environmental Law Reporter. Other research efforts have included the drafting of model brownfields legislation and the publication of A Guidebook for Brownfields Property Owners. Additional brownfields research has addressed how often states “reopen” brownfields cleanup agreements in order to require, for example, additional remedial work after they have approved a cleanup completion.

In addition, ELI coordinated the Brownfields and Public Health Initiative, a campaign to ensure long term community sustainability by integrating public health with economic development, environmental protection and good governance. Through this initiative, ELI sought to improve the well-being of low-income populations and people of color who are overburdened with pollution, disease, poverty and crime.

ELI has also sponsored training, technical assistance and roundtable dialogues to engage diverse brownfields stakeholders in measures to promote community health through brownfields redevelopment.

Recently, ELI launched the Blight Revitalization Initiative for Green, Healthy Towns (BRIGHT). Through BRIGHT, ELI works with overburdened communities to identify corridors of blighted, vacant, and environmentally-impaired properties and develop a revitalization plan with the municipality to improve infrastructure, generate alternative energy, grow local food, and provide job training and full time employment opportunities.

ELI is now developing a BRIGHT Guide to facilitate the sharing of best practices in brownfield redevelopment. This document will review EPA’s Area-Wide Planning Grants and other corridor redevelopment projects launched over the last decade, analyze projects that have successfully catalyzed environmental justice and economic opportunity in overburdened communities, and compile insights into a step-by-step best practices guide for redevelopment projects. Putting theory into practice, BRIGHT is also working to launch a pilot corridor revitalization project in Washington D.C.’s Ward 7.


Meet John Pendergrass and Linda Breggin, Co-Directors of the Brownfields Program.