Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Brownfields program nears expiration

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 10:48 AM

The state's brownfield tax credit program will expire at the end of the year unless lawmakers can agree to a fix. And if the recent past serves as any indication, that agreement may be hard to come by.

Under the state's Brownfield Cleanup Program, developers can receive tax credits for cleaning up and reusing contaminated sites. But the program's efficacy has been debated. Developers say that it provides a crucial incentive and that without it, they may not be able to reuse the sites.

But environmental groups and some elected officials, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, say that too much is being spent on brownfield redevelopment projects that would happen without the incentives.

In his 2015-16 budget, Cuomo proposed reforming the Brownfield Cleanup Program. The tax credits would be limited to sites in economically distressed areas, that are worth less than the cost of cleaning them up, or will result in affordable housing development, according to the budget briefing book.

Cuomo proposed the same reforms last year, but Senate and Assembly leaders couldn't reach agreement on reforms. They passed a temporary extension of the existing program, but Cuomo vetoed the legislation, saying that he wants a long-term solution.

Legislative leaders are in currently in talks for the 2015-16 state budget, and the future of the Brownfield Cleanup Program is almost certainly part of that discussion. 

In a report released last week, Environmental Advocates of New York backed the governor's plan. The report said that over the life of the program, the state has paid out $1.4 billion in credits for 170 sites, at an average cost of $8.2 million per project.

The organization argues that the credits should be used to attract development to economically stressed areas, particularly those with high unemployment and concentrations of brownfields. It also says that the state should base the credits solely on the cost of cleanup, instead of including the developed value, too.

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