ON HEELS OF REPORTED DECISION TO FREEZE ALL EPA GRANTS & CONTRACTS, SCHUMER DEMANDS EPA NOT DELAY OR REVERSE CONTRACTS TO TRANSFER “DIAZ 8” HOMES TO VILLAGE OF HOLLEY; THE EPA CANNOT DELAY OR CHANGE COURSE at 11th HOUR
Schumer Expresses Concerns That New Federal Policies Would Put This Critical Transfer At Risk For A Community That Has Spent Years Trying To Acquire Long-Vacant EPA-Owned Homes; Holley Signed EPA Agreement in September to Put Homes On the Market for Sale to New Owners
Schumer: Residents of Holley Should Not Have to Wait Any Longer for This Transfer; The EPA Must Do Its Part To Help Holley Strengthen Neighborhoods That Suffered from Diaz Chemical Contamination
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer today demanded that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirm that the reported freeze on all grants and contracts not delay or reverse the EPA’s long anticipated and expected transfer of eight houses in the Village of Holley – contaminated by Diaz Chemical – to the Village of Holley Development Corporation (VHDC). The new administration has reportedly implemented a new policy to freeze and review action on all pending EPA contracts and grants, potentially putting this important years-long project at risk when it is nearly at the finish line.
“It’s unconscionable that at the 11th hour, this new, short-sighted EPA policy could jeopardize years of work by the Village of Holley to acquire the “Diaz 8” vacant homes from the EPA. I will fight tooth and nail to ensure that this project is not mired by the administration’s short-sighted policy change. The Village of Holley has patiently worked to acquire these eight vacant homes, put them back on the market to sell to new owners and strengthen the neighborhoods that suffered from the Diaz Chemical release. It is ridiculous that the administration could potentially be putting this and projects like it across New York State at risk. A promise is a promise and the signed Memorandum of Agreement says the EPA must- and without any delay fulfill its obligation to the Village of Holley and complete this critical transfer,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer.
Previously Schumer pushed for new legislation to make polluters pay to fund the federal Superfund program, to help clean up and revitalize contaminated industrial sites like Diaz Chemical. Diaz Chemical was the largest private employer and taxpayer in Holley before closing its doors in 2003 following a release of a toxic mix of chemicals into the air, which contaminated a large area in the Village of Holley. The site was declared a superfund site in 2004, and after pushes by Schumer and was given federal funds to begin to remove hazardous materials. The EPA conducted approximately $12 million in initial clean-up activities, including the removal of over 100,000 gallons of waste. Then in 2012, the EPA designated and selected a final $14.5 million clean-up plan for the Holley site, which was designed to return the site to productive commercial use by treating and removing the contaminants remaining in the soil and groundwater, as well as demolishing any on-site building required to gain access to contaminated soil. Under the plan, the EPA also committed to transfer the eight homes it initially acquired, but which were subsequently found to be free of any contamination from the Diaz release, to the Village of Holley under a plant to offer the homes for sale and back on the tax rolls.
The Village of Holley signed an EPA Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in September 2016 to enabling the transfer of these eight homes to the Village of Holley Development Corporation who would in turn put these homes up for sale, bringing new families and individuals to Holley. Local officials have been concerned that the administration’s new policy could delay this action and put economic development in the village at risk for residents and possible buyers.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the EPA appears below:
In light of the reported new policy requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to freeze and review action on all pending EPA contracts and grants, I write to strenuously oppose any delay or any reversal in the EPA’s long anticipated and soon-expected transfer of eight houses in the Village of Holley to the Village of Holley Development Corporation (VHDC).
When the EPA purchased these eight houses a decade ago as part of its response and clean-up of the 2002 Diaz Chemical toxic chemical release, the Village of Holley lost an estimated $700,000 from its tax base and neighboring homeowners suffered from vacant properties marring their community. Fortunately by 2014 the EPA determined the eight houses were free of any contamination from the Diaz release and together with the VHDC initiated a plan to transfer ownership of the houses to the VHDC, which in turn would put the houses on the market for sale to new owners. This agreement was codified in a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the EPA that the Village of Holley signed in September 2016. Prior to enacting this new freeze and review policy on January 24th, quitclaim deeds to the properties were being prepared for the EPA by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) along with related materials needed for the EPA to process the deed transfers within a matter of weeks.
This new freeze and review policy must not side-track or derail the transfer of these properties. A promise is a promise and the signed Memorandum of Agreement directing the transfer of these properties back to the Village of Holley must be abided. I request your immediate assurance that the transfer process will not now be reversed or delayed.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
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