Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — ALBANY — New York’s comptroller has called for an overhaul of state programs for restoring thousands of abandoned and contaminated industrial and commercial sites after the state spent nearly $1 billion to clean up 408 brownfields, including several in Niagara County.
However, half the cleanups over two decades were done at no state cost from tax credits, which were added in later versions of the cleanup program.
In a 33-page report Monday, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the state may incur another $3.3 billion in costs from tax credits over the next few years, while uncertainty of program extensions will probably start to deter new projects. He called for limiting or ending tax incentives while extending liability protections and streamlining regulations for developers.
“Thousands of contaminated sites in communities across the state continue to pose environmental and health threats and prevent economic development,” DiNapoli said. “The state has an opportunity now to improve the cleanup program to encourage more remediation and redevelopment of contaminated properties, and do it in a more cost-effective manner through better targeting of program dollars.”
Cleanup projects typically take years to finish, with developers qualifying for tax credits afterward. Key program provisions are set to expire in 2015.
In the city and town of Lockport, several brownfields have either benefited from the program or are eligible. These include the Transit Street Manufactured Gas Plant, located at Transit Street and LaGrange along with buildings 7, 8 and 10 at GM Components Holdings at 200 Upper Mountain Road.
Two sites are along Eighteenmile Creek. One is located between Clinton and Harwood streets and the second is a 15-mile stretch from Harwood Street to Lake Ontario.
Most recently, a cleanup proposal was put forth in February for the former municipal landfill near Old Upper Mountain Road.
The Department of Environmental Conservation, which administers the program, is working with stakeholders to try to improve the program “and maximize cleaning up of polluted sites across the state,” spokeswoman Lisa King said. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made cleaning up communities from pollution “a central part” of his administration, she said.