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Brownfield Funding Legislation Enacted

5 Jan 2017

law

The bills passed.  At last.  As you may recall from two years ago, I served on an MDEQ-led task force to  review and improve the “patchwork quilt” of statutes and rules regarding brownfield redevelopment incentives, grants and loans.  A CSI II group (of which, in full disclosure, I chaired the Legislative Committee) met regularly in 2014.  The changes certainly would’ve been introduced earlier but the Flint Water Crisis happened and everyone’s attention was diverted. Earlier this year, a package of six bills was introduced in the Legislature; on the 15th they were passed and on  January 5, 2017, the Governor signed them.  They take effect in 90 days and are now 2016 Public Acts 471-476.

These changes streamline, simplify and speed up the process for loan, grant and TIF approvals to enable projects to get started faster than ever before while supporting a greater range of eligible activities than previously available.

The most significant changes include:

  • demolition, lead abatement, asbestos abatement dredging and excavation of uncontaminated but unusable soils may be eligible for grant and loan funding, subject to certain criteria and prerequisites (such as a threshold that at least 51% of the eligible activities are part 201 type expenses);
  • one can be technically liable under Part 201, TSCA or RCRA and still be eligible for grant, loan or TIF funding – previously, even someone who submitted a technically deficient BEA was barred from eligibility – with a renewed emphasis on remediation and redevelopment, only those who actually caused contamination are barred from eligibility, again, subject to certain criteria and prerequisites;
  • while the definition of “eligible property” was changed very little, activities eligible for funding through TIF are broadened to include such things as due care expenses, UST removals, solid waste disposal, sediment removal and disposal (where either the sediments or the upland are contaminated), plan preparation and implementation costs (subject to certain conditions and caps), including the costs to track plan compliance and a clearer set of sheeting and shoring costs;
  • overall streamlining of the application and review processes in an effort to speed up the TIF process including giving greater authority to the Michigan Strategic Fund to approve plans of up to $1 Million without waiting for a Fund Board meeting.

There was some tension between those championing redevelopment and those focusing on environmental remediation but, ultimately, the set of changes to the rules and statutes clarifying the process for obtaining loans, grants and tax increment financing for brownfield redevelopment. Not every issue was agreed upon and there was a list of so-called “parking lot issues” (either because they were discussed at length in the parking lot after the meetings or because we “parked them” there as we couldn’t reach consensus).  Hopefully some of these will be addressed in the near future but these changes should streamline, simplify and speed up the process for loan, grant and TIF approvals to enable projects to get started faster than ever, while supporting a greater range of eligible activities than previously available.  Given the Legislature’s unwillingness to approve other similar bills, this was a real accomplishment for brownfield redevelopment in the State of Michigan.

The votes are in – now comes the hard part

13 Oct 2014

Photo Credit: Christine Cousins, www.christinecousins.com

Photo Credit: Christine Cousins, www.christinecousins.com

Each of the major players (Detroit and Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties) have now all approved joining the newly formed Great Lakes Water and Sewer Authority; so, we’re good to go and everything is fine, right?  Well, not so fast.  All the votes mean so far is that the Authority exists and that it has four members under the terms of a Memorandum of Agreement and Articles of Incorporation.  Frankly, there wasn’t much doubt that it would be approved and the only question was Macomb.  Once Detroit and Wayne approved it (which was fairly certain), if Oakland or Macomb didn’t, the governor would appoint their representatives and  they could be charged more than those who joined. Landlocked Oakland was a “gimme.” Macomb, with access to Lake St. Clair could have opted to develop its own system – as others have done. (more…)

Four Years of Michigan Green Law

17 Mar 2014

NewPicture1Well, today marks four years of blogging on environmental issues of interest in Michigan. After about 1,400 days, over 370 posts and 24,000 people checking us out, it’s been a fun interesting run thus far.

The best present you can give us is to keep reading, subscribe, keep commenting and, if you’re so inclined, please pass the blog onto your friends and colleagues! If you have a question or a topic for a blog post, please let us know!

New legislation seeks to ban microbeads

26 Feb 2014

Courtesy of 5 Gyres

Courtesy of 5 Gyres

In this Michigan Green Law post from December and this post from last July, Arthur mentioned how plastic bits were being found in the Great Lakes and that “microbeads” found in toothpastes and various body washes may be the prime culprit.  Well last week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Assemblyman Robert Sweeny introduced the Microbead Free Waters Act, which bans the tiny plastic beads used in facial scrubs, shampoos, body washes and toothpaste.  The legislation comes after high concentrations of small plastic microbeads were found in the Great Lakes last year.

5 Gyres, an organization aimed at reducing plastics pollution (and mentioned in Arthur’s July post), was heavily involved in preparing the legislation.  If the legislation becomes law, it will make New York the first to ban the sale of microplastics in personal care products.  It will be interesting to see if and when other states around the Great Lakes follow suit.

Click here for more on 5 Gyres and the proposed legislation.

LIFX smart bulbs now available

14 Oct 2013

 

Image: LIFX.Kickstarter

Just over a year ago, I blogged about the LIFX smart bulb, a Kickstarter funded project.  At that time, the project had just been fully funded (in record time) and production on the first batch of bulbs was about to begin.

As you may remember, LIFX is an energy efficient, multi-color LED bulb that can be controlled by a smartphone.   LIFX can also be turned on and off from an existing light switch – just like a regular light bulb – so you won’t be left in the dark (or light) if you lose your smartphone. 

The first batch of bulbs produced went to those who funded the Kickstarter project and the second batch already sold out.  No need to worry, however, as you can pre-order bulbs from the third batch which is expected to ship (and have limited retail availability) in the first quarter of 2014.  The ultimate price?  $89 plus shipping for an individual bulb ($85 each if you purchase 4 or more). 

It is unfortunate that the third batch won’t be ready in time for the holiday season as LIFX would certainly make for an interesting gift.

The Ticking Reopener “Timebomb”

9 Oct 2013

For 18 years, Michigan has touted its BEA program as the best in the US for land purchasers.  It has been viewed as a virtual “get out of jail free” card relating to environmental contamination.  This May, the MDEQ issued a guidance document regarding vapor intrusion and closures.  I blogged about it previously.

This guidance poses a significant challenge to property owners because of the dramatically lower standards it imposes on volatile contaminants.  By example, MDEQ ratcheted down the level for dry cleaning solvents in groundwater from 25,000 parts per billion (ppb) to 9.4 ppb (and possibly as low as 5 ppb).

There is a serious risk that owners of former gas stations, manufacturers and dry cleaner sites, even those with BEAs, may have to investigate and even remediate contamination that, for the last 18 years was deemed “ok.”

Michigan law requires even non liable landowners to exercise due care including conducting response activity to mitigate unacceptable exposures and allow for the intended use of the facility in a manner that protects the public health and safety.  We are starting to hear that lenders and the MDEQ are making noises about applying the new vapor closure guidance as a due care reopener.  The MDEQ reports that it has received over 17,000 BEAs.  This new guidance (which may be subject to a number of challenges) opens the possibility that anyone who bought a property and thought their BEA protected them could be in an expensive fix.

Is the 18 year ride over?

So that whole solar mirror thing really works?

5 Sep 2013

The sun – it’s not just for tricks anymore,

Two years ago, I blogged about Chevron using solar mirrors to power oil/gas explorations.

This concept seems like something out of science-fiction – although developers have built a 300,000 mirror solar generator which is reportedly about to go on-line in the Mojave Desert.  So, you say, how much solar power can be generated when so few of us live in the desert?

Now comes news out of London of all places about a building that appears to have  inadvertently set up its own solar mirror system.  A gentleman in London claims that a mirrored building actually melted parts of his car after only two hours!  Seems like a possible new design trend in the offing, if they can figure out how to capture that energy!