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Brownfields | Guest Editor's Introduction



Volume 12 Number 3

Guest Editor's Introduction

Edwin Stromberg
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that what follows is my own personal opinion, not the official position of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It is, however, informed by many years as a HUD employee, working on urban redevelopment.


The standard definition of a brownfield, as embodied in the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act, is a "real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant."

Federal concern about brownfields arose as a direct consequence of growing criticism of and reaction to the get-tough "polluter-pay" federal policies contained in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA, or "the Superfund law").1 CERCLA, which Congress passed in reaction to the Love Canal environmental disaster, came down forcibly on any entity that caused or tolerated environmental pollution. The law imposed a severe liability scheme known as "strict, retroactive, and joint liability." Although modified and moderated in 1986 by amendments, CERCLA was initially characterized by environmental lawyers as imposing a wide net with harsh and unremitting sanctions.

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