(AVONDALE, La) – On Thursday, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO), Jefferson Parish, and the City of Westwego with a federal grant to boost business attraction, jobs, and investment in historically underserved communities in Jefferson Parish. The $600,000 grant will be used to assess possible Brownfield sites in Avondale, Bridge City, parts of Marrero, and the City of Westwego. It is the first step toward redeveloping dormant properties in these areas.
JEDCO, Jefferson Parish, the City of Westwego, and other partners such as Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) and the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) identified a number of vacant and underutilized industrial and commercial properties on the West Bank. These possible Brownfield sites, many of which are likely contaminated by hazardous substances, pollutants and/or petroleum, require environmental assessments before a new business can redevelop the property. Environmental assessments can be a costly deterrent for prospective businesses, causing a lack of opportunity for job growth and revitalization of some of the most economically disadvantaged communities in Jefferson Parish.
Access to this federal grant helps to eliminate the financial barriers that a prospective buyer or developer may face with a Brownfield site. The funds can support first and second phases of environmental assessments, which will save prospective businesses time and money. This grant has the potential to increase interest in long-vacant properties with the ultimate goal of business attraction and community revitalization.
“Procuring these funds represents a significant value for Jefferson Parish and JEDCO,” said JEDCO President and CEO Jerry Bologna. “The national EPA Brownfield Assessment Coalition Grant will position underserved areas with tremendous growth potential for revitalization, investment, and job creation in sustainable industries on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish. We are honored to use these funds to support our economy, serve our residents, and achieve ambitious goals to reinvigorate long-dormant properties in our community.”
“Securing the Brownfield Assessment Coalition Grant from the Environmental Protection Agency is a success story for Jefferson Parish. We are one of only two recipients in the entire state of Louisiana to receive the grant award this year,” said Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng. “The funds will help us to continue making progress in areas of great potential in our community, while also prioritizing jobs for our residents and a resurgence of investment in the area. We look forward to this ongoing work.”
“Our administration has been focused on redeveloping vacant properties into community assets,” added Westwego Mayor Joe Peoples. “This grant allows us to take the next step to further our revitalization work, encourage new business in the community, and help us create spaces that our residents can enjoy here in Westwego.”
In addition to the federal dollars from the EPA, JEDCO was also awarded a small technical assistance grant in Fall 2020 from LDEQ, which is being used to research and inventory potential Brownfield sites, create resource and marketing materials to attract investment and prospective employers, and to engage with civic groups in order to bring additional interest in redeveloping potential Brownfield properties.
“Our Brownfields team and JEDCO have been hard at work in Jefferson Parish, identifying Brownfields sites. This grant will help fund environmental assessments and cleanup plans to move priority sites closer to returning to productive use,” said LDEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck Carr Brown.
“The Regional Planning Commission wishes to congratulate Jefferson Parish and JEDCO on their recent Brownfield award from the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Regional Planning Commission Director Jeff Roesel. “We believe these funds will be a catalyst for the reinvestment in underutilized properties on the West Bank. Further, these funds will support redevelopment activities of properties in a manner which is environmentally responsible while utilizing existing public infrastructure. We have great partners with the City of Westwego, JEDCO and Jefferson Parish, and look forward to successful program implementation.”
The EPA selected 151 communities to receive 154 grant awards totaling $66.5 million in Brownfields funding through its Multipurpose, Assessment and Cleanup (MAC) Grants. Approximately 50 percent of selected recipients will be receiving EPA Brownfields Grant funding for the first time, like JEDCO, and more than 85 percent are located in or serving small communities. JEDCO and LDEQ were the only two organizations in Louisiana to receive this type of grant from the EPA. The EPA awarded them a total of $900,000 in federal funding ($600,000 to JEDCO and $300,000 to LDEQ) at a special check presentation ceremony at the Port of New Orleans Thursday morning.
“Through our Brownfields Program, EPA is delivering on the Biden Administration’s commitment to lifting up and protecting overburdened communities across America, especially communities that have experienced long periods of disinvestment and decay,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “These assessment and cleanup grants will not only support economic growth and job creation, but they will also empower communities to address the environmental, public health, and social issues associated with contaminated land.”
Since its inception in 1995, EPA’s Brownfields Program has provided nearly $1.76 billion in grants to assess and clean up contaminated properties and return them to productive reuse. Read the full EPA press release here.