FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 19, 2012
SCHUMER: SCORES OF VACANT GAS STATIONS & OTHER CONTAMINATED SITES CAN CAUSE TOXIC LEAKS & ARE UNSAFE FOR HUNDREDS OF UPSTATE COMMUNITIES – SENATOR PUSHES FOR EXTENSION OF EXPIRED BROWNFIELDS TAX INCENTIVE TO SPUR CLEANUP, REDEVELOPMENT
Recent ‘NY Times’ Report Highlighted Thousands of Closed Gas Stations As Blight on Community Business Corridors - Expired Brownfields Tax Incentive To Help Cover Costs of Converting Unsafe Brownfield Sites
Contaminated Gas Stations in Upstate New York Are Often Located On Busy Streets & Prime Downtown Real Estate – Sites Could Act As Gateways To Bustling Downtowns, Rather Than Contaminated Eyesores
Schumer: In Last Decade, 75 Gas Stations Closed in Capital Region, 51 Gas Stations in Western NY, 64 in Hudson Valley, 65 in Southern Tier That Could Be Eligible for Cleanup & Redevelopment Tax Incentive
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer launched a new effort to spur redevelopment of vacant gas stations and other contaminated brownfield sites across Upstate New York and the country that are potentially unsafe for the communities they are in, and that hinder economic development in downtowns and business corridors. Schumer announced his push to extend the expired Brownfields Tax Incentives, which would allow all environmental cleanup costs at eligible properties to be tax deductible in the year incurred.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), petroleum brownfields, or ground contaminated by fuel, make up half of the 450,000 brownfields in the country. Schumer’s proposal gives incentives for local developers and small-business owners to clean up these gas stations and other contaminated sites in order to reduce risk of contaminating the soil and groundwater, and to set the scene for redevelopment. Often, vacant gas stations are located on high-traffic streets, near commercial storefronts, or at the corner of busy intersections – all ideal locations that, if redeveloped, could act as gateways to bustling downtowns. The Senate is expected to take up a package of expired tax cuts to spur business development and job growth before the end of the year, and Schumer will fight to ensure that this tax cut is included in that package.
“Scores of vacant gas stations across Upstate New York could act as gateways to bustling downtowns, instead of contaminated and dangerous eyesores,” said Schumer. “That is why I’m launching a push to extend the Brownfields Tax Incentive, which recently expired, to encourage the cleanup and redevelopment of these gas pumps and other contaminated sites across Upstate New York. The Brownfields Tax Incentive covers the cost of converting potentially unsafe Brownfield sites that place burdens on their communities, into new sites for redevelopment that can pump new businesses and jobs into Upstate New York. Gas stations are often located on prime real estate in bustling downtown areas that are worth every penny to local developers, even given the need for cleanup. This plan can help turn toxic, vacant sites into productive gateways to our Upstate communities, and I will push hard to get this done.”
Schumer pushed for the extension of the Brownfields Tax Incentive in light of the potentially significant environmental risk to local communities and residents, as well as the serious economic burden that abandoned gas stations have on Upstate communities. From 2001 to 2010, approximately 344 gas stations closed in Upstate New York alone, and while Schumer noted that not every closure signifies a currently vacant site, the vast majority stands idle, often leaking toxic chemicals into the soil and groundwater. According to a July 10th New York Times article, over 50,000 gas stations have closed in the last two decades, often due to rising oil costs. It is critical that such brownfields are not left vacant following their unfortunate closure.
Schumer highlighted that vacant gas stations not only shutter their doors and leave petroleum in the ground, but also occupy valuable space for redevelopment. Gas stations are typically situated on busy and easily accessible streets, close to other popular attractions or commercial sites. However, these lots often linger due to their need for cleanup and because abandoned gas stations do not occupy enough space to be attractive to large developers. For that reason, Schumer is pushing for the extension of his Brownfields Tax Incentive in this year’s tax extender package, which could entice local developers to redevelop these conveniently located sites and bring new investment to Upstate communities.
Schumer released a county-by-county report of the number of gas station closed in the past decade that could benefit from this tax incentive, which would be a boon for Upstate New York’s environmental and economic landscape. Between 2001 and 2011, there were 344 gas stations that closed in Upstate New York. Here’s how the closures break down across the state:
· In the Capital Region, 75 gas stations closed in the last decade.
· In Central New York, 16 gas stations closed in the last decade.
· In the Hudson Valley, 64 gas stations closed in the last decade.
· In the North Country, 32 gas stations closed in the last decade.
· In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, 41 gas stations closed in the last decade.
· In the Southern Tier, 65 gas stations closed in the last decade.
· In Western New York, 51 gas stations closed in the last decade.
Schumer described the potentially negative environmental and health impact that vacant gas stations can have on local communities. Often gas stations across New York still stand abandoned after many years of inactivity. Typically such gas stations have multiple underground storage tanks (USTs) that can leak toxic chemicals into the ground. In some cases USTs are eventually removed, and in other cases owners abandon stations and leave these tanks in the ground. Currently, there are over 1,900 leaky underground storage tanks throughout New York. Regardless of the time of their removal, these tanks can allow lighter non-aqueous phase liquid or gasoline, and elevated levels of petroleum hydrocarbons to enter soil at these sites. Moreover, groundwater beneath the site can become contaminated, which can lead to public exposure via drinking water if not addressed and cleaned up properly. In addition, air quality can be impacted by site-related contaminants.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines “brownfields” as property that contains the potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant, which complicates its redevelopment. More than 450,000 brownfields exist in U.S. The Brownfields Tax Incentive would allow property owners to verify their eligibility for property constituted as a brownfield with their designated state agency for environmental protection, which includes the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The Brownfields Tax Incentive, which was passed in 1997 but expired at the end of last year, provides tax incentives to any property or small business owner that paid to clean up petroleum damage. The provision that Schumer supports would incentivize property owners or outside developers to redevelop unused, unsightly, and potentially unsafe brownfields. Half of all brownfields are contaminated by underground storage tanks (USTs) that leak petroleum, usually at old gas stations, and business developers could seek to construct new businesses in their place after using the tax incentive. Schumer noted that that this tax incentive extension would be a boon for Upstate New York’s environmental and economic landscape.