Two decades of progress

By Herb Petitjean
Division of Compliance Assistance

All things change over time. Back in the 1990s, presentations were commonly printed on transparent sheets of plastic and projected using an overhead projector. Now, presentations are stored on a thumb drive or in “the cloud” and displayed using a projector connected to a computer. Over the last 20 years, brownfield redevelopment has undergone similarly drastic changes in Kentucky.

Properties that are abandoned or underutilized due to real or perceived contamination are called brownfields. Interest in remediating and redeveloping these properties in Kentucky grew during the mid-1990s, with Louisville playing a prominent role. Then Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson raised the issue during his tenure as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. In 1995, the city was one of the recipients of an early grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to attempt to address these properties.

In the early days, there was a lot of contention over legislation and regulations to facilitate revitalization of these parcels. However, our most recent regulations were created through a very cordial, collaborative process. The results speak for themselves (“Kentucky nearing century mark on brownfield property reclamations––Nearly 100 properties reclaimed in less than three years.” Land, Air & Water, Winter 2016).

During this time period, the Kentucky Brownfield Redevelopment Program has conducted free environmental site assessments of more than 60 properties on behalf of local governments and nonprofits.

In the past 10 years, Kentucky entities have been awarded $10.5 million in competitive
EPA brownfield grants. The state brownfield program played a major role in this by providing training on grant writing and offering one-on-one assistance with the application process. In 2008, EPA Assistant Administrator Susan Parker Bodine came to Kentucky to present that year’s awards and recognize the tremendous strides the state had made.

Kentucky’s program has been so successful that we have been asked to share our outreach program with other states. We have also assisted the state of Washington with our method of estimating brownfield numbers, and a group in Alaska contacted us to learn more about how we conduct community visioning sessions. We have even given a presentation to visiting waste management officials from Ukraine. One of our staff members is on a national committee that addresses brownfield issues and is developing a brownfield guide for small towns and rural areas.

The Louisville Waterfront Park, Home of the Innocents and Papa John’s Stadium, have each received Phoenix Awards, national awards that recognize outstanding brownfield redevelopment projects. Kentucky Brownfield Redevelopment Program staff members Herb Petitjean and Amanda LeFevre have received National Notable Achievement Awards from the EPA.

Kentucky’s Brownfield Redevelopment Program is continuing to build on this foundation. Utilizing an EPA grant, the program has established a Cleaner Commonwealth Fund to assist with cleanups of brownfields. The fund has issued two rounds of grants and is about to issue its first loan. This year, the program is reaching out to the banking community to make them more knowledgeable about the brownfield redevelopment process and recent changes in Kentucky law. A proposal is being developed to hold a Central Appalachian Brownfield Conference to gather brownfield advocates, representing a variety of stakeholder groups from across the region to discuss the issues facing redevelopment of brownfields in mountains. With these and similar projects in the works, the next two decades should be an incredible period of continuing progress in brownfield revitalization for Kentucky.

To read more about brownfield sites that have been cleaned and put back into productive reuse, go to under DCA Case Studies: Brownfields.


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