West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman welcomed more than 170 attendees to the 2012 West Virginia Brownfields Conference at Glade Springs Resort in Daniels, West Virginia. Secretary Huffman kicked off the conference with the keynote address on September 5, 2012. He commended the partnership between the WVDEP and the State’s two Brownfields Assistance Centers at Marshall University and West Virginia University. Secretary Huffman told the attendees that the West Virginia brownfields program “one of the “most important things [WVDEP] does,” yet it “lies under the radar” because it does not involve coal or oil and gas, and is “not controversial” like coal, oil, and gas.
Secretary Huffman noted that West Virginia does not have a lot of developable land and that much of the land in the river valleys is contaminated. According to Secretary Huffman, these sites were destined for Superfund because there was not enough money to remediate them. He said that “with the strength and authority of the regulatory agency and the resources of the State’s universities,” many of these sites are being addressed and reused.
The agenda, Secretary Huffman told the conference attendees, “reflects the diversity of issues confronting the State,” ranging from efforts to attract crackers, siting renewable energy on surface mine lands, and the more than seventy voluntary remediation projects that are currently ongoing in the State of West Virginia. He praised the efforts of community development and the West Virginia Redevelopment Collaborative and cheered the number of redevelopments on former brownfields, including the Bureau of Public Debt in Parkersburg, Pullman Square in Huntington, the park in Charleston, and the reuse of private industrial sites throughout the State.
He emphasized the diverse funding groups that came together to help clean up the former TS&T pottery site in the City of Chester in Hancock County, including the Northern Brownfields Assistance Center at West Virginia University, the Hancock County Commission, the U.S. EPA, and the West Virginia Infrastructure Jobs and Development Council. Regarding the West Virginia Voluntary Remediation and Redevelopment Program, Secretary Huffman described “liability relief through [that program]” as “nationally competitive.”
Additionally, Secretary Huffman commented on the Land Stewardship Corporation Act that was introduced during the 2012 legislative session. He said that although the legislation did not pass, it was “well-received”. Calling the legislation one of his “top priorities,” Secretary Huffman promised to have it reintroduced during the 2013 legislative session. He stated that the legislation “takes West Virginia to the next level,” making the State “a national leader”.
Concluding his remarks on West Virginia’s brownfields program, Secretary Huffman stated: “It works. It’s a really big deal.” While noting that the work that the conference attendees were doing was “drowned out by the politics of coal and the extraction of oil and gas,” Secretary Huffman reminded the conference attendees that brownfields remediation and redevelopment is “important to the State economy and environment” and described their work as “tremendous”.
This article was authored by Gale Lea Rubrecht, Jackson Kelly PLLC. For more information on the author, see here.