New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell was in Washington, DC on Thursday to testify before the House Subcommittee on Environment.

The hearing was entitled "Modernizing Environment Laws: Challenges and Opportunities for Expanding Infrastructure and Promoting Development and Manufacturing."

Mitchell, who serves as the chair of the Energy Committee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, spoke to the subcommittee about New Bedford's history with brownfield and Superfund sites.

He testified that New Bedford "has turned environmental liabilities into environmental assets," and that Congress needs to modernize the Brownfields Law to help other communities do the same.

"If Congress is interested in giving economic development tools to communities, then reauthorizing and modernizing the Brownfields Law should be a cornerstone of that effort," he said.

Mitchell spoke about successful brownfield redevelopment projects in New Bedford such as the removal of derelict fuel tanks, converting old mills into attractive housing options and turning Sullivan's Ledge into the flagship of the city's solar power program.

"New Bedford has come to recognize that our path to continuing our trajectory of growth and prosperity lies in part in unlocking the potential of contaminated sites through innovative new approaches," he said, noting that the Environmental Protection Agency only funds about 30 percent of applications for brownfield redevelopment.

The mayor pushed for changes such as the creation of a multipurpose grant, for the increase of cleanup grant amounts and for encouraging good samaritans to clean up brownfield sites, among other ideas.

"Brownfield redevelopment is a win-win for everyone involved," he said. "It creates jobs, cleans up the environment, and it's pro-business and pro-community."



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