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1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Talks About Rebuilding Pennsylvania's Industrial Heritage Through Land Recycling

In April 1996, Gov. Tom Ridge participated in an event in the City of York announcing the redevelopment of a former brownfield site using the then recently passed Land Recycling Program and how it fits in the broader context of protecting the environment and encouraging economic opportunity.  Here are his remarks--

“Rebuilding on Pennsylvania’s Industrial Heritage” — that’s what the sign says. And that’s why we’re here — to see with our own eyes what happens when government gets out of the way of private initiative — to hear with our own ears how local officials and private industry can work with state government to revitalize our cities and towns now diseased with abandoned industrial sites — all in the name of job creation.

It’s happening here in York, at this very site, where the rubble of a 1993 fire has been removed. And now, within months, the Wolf Organization will build a 37,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that will employ at least 18 people.

What’s exciting is that this site is one of 13 sites statewide cleaned up in less than one year. It’s one of 60 sites around the state that have entered the Department of Environmental Protection’s Land Recycling Program.

It’s one of three projects in York and 10 statewide to have cleanup efforts boosted by the Industrial Site Reuse Funding Program.

This past year, the state has pumped $2 million in grants and loans to assess or clean up soil and groundwater contamination or to remove asbestos.

Finding a faster, easier way to encourage the voluntary cleanup and reuse of industrial sites was a promise I made when I was a candidate for governor.

I promised to do it without putting our environment at risk. I promised it as part of a 21st century environmental policy that believes in compliance, not confrontation.

I promised it because I understand the potential for today’s jobs and tomorrow’s jobs at these sites.

You see, I believe that most Pennsylvanians want to be good stewards of their environment. They want to leave clean water and clean land for their children, and their children to come.

But for too long, state government’s attitude was that everyone was a polluter. And the only way state government knew how to deal with polluters is to slap them with a fine. No questions asked. No inquiries on how they might solve the problem. The attitude was, if the state was collecting huge sums in fines — the state was doing its job.

I don’t think that’s the state’s job. The state’s job is to help those who might have an environmental problem clean it up. That’s our goal, isn’t it? That’s what the objective is supposed to be.

Rather than fining companies millions of dollars, shouldn’t we use that money to clean up the land or the water that has been polluted in the first place? Absolutely. It just makes more sense.

Last May, we started to make government make sense. With the help of overwhelming bipartisan support in the General Assembly, we created the most comprehensive industrial site reuse program in the United States.

Now, Pennsylvanians can address critical environmental issues that for too long have prevented the reuse of contaminated sites.

We have made sense out of unreasonable cleanup standards. We have streamlined an approval process that always seemed to take too long. We have provided protection for lenders and other innocent landowners involved in the clean-up contaminated sites.

We’ve done something novel — we’ve made government make sense.

The four cornerstones of the Land Recycling Program are: uniform cleanup standards based on health and environmental risks, standardized review procedures, releases from liability and financial assistance.

When I signed those bills, I issued a challenge — a challenge to DEP, to municipalities and authorities, to financial institutions and to business. I said, “These bills conclude only the legislative process — their becoming law begins the real opportunity to clean up these sites and return them to productive use.”

I challenged all who called for the land recycling laws to make the legislation a reality. That’s what’s happening here in York.

Many of the city’s manufacturing plants dating back to before the 1900’s stand vacant, ill-suited for modern times. Their location, however, along the city’s rail corridor makes them extremely valuable with their access to both Conrail and the CSX systems.

The unused potential of the York City rail corridor has been a nagging concern for many area business leaders and public officials over the last 15 years.

According to an op-ed article co-authored by David Carver (president of the York County Industrial Development Corporation) that appeared in the Harrisburg Patriot-News (Nov. 24, 1995), “As York enthusiastically tackles the Rail Corridor project, there are few who will dispute the figurative truth that the new laws seem to have been passed especially for York.”

Maybe he’s right. Our Site Reuse Program has provided two $82,500 grants to the York County Industrial Development Corporation. That’s 75 percent of the costs of site assessment and cleanup plan development along the railroad corridor.

Today is the first day of April, and Earth Day is just weeks ahead. The Department of Environmental Protection has adopted the Earth Day theme, “Taking the Next Step.

And this morning, at this site, seeing with our eyes, what the restoration of this site to productive use means to this community. It’s evidence of how this administration is ready and willing to take the next step.

This construction sign is just one of many that will appear around Pennsylvania in the coming months — every Land Recycling site will have one. It will be a reminder to everyone why we’re here and what we’re doing — together.

We are investing in Pennsylvania’s future with an integrated environmental partnership with the Department of Commerce, Department of Environmental Protection, businesses and communities that focus on industrial site cleanups — while at the same time providing job creation and retention opportunities for Pennsylvanians.

Industrial Site Reuse funding will aid in restoring sites to productive use, rebuilding our industrial heritage and safely reviving the economic well being of our communities.

Related Articles In This Series:

Feature: 20 Years Of Growing Greener: A Celebration Of Leadership, Partnership, Accomplishment

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Talks About His Very Personal Connection To Lake Erie And The Need To Work Together To Restore The Great Lakes

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge: Expanding Partnerships To Clean Up The Susquehanna River And The Chesapeake Bay Beyond

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Joins With Governors Of Delaware, New Jersey, Federal Officials To Establish The Delaware Estuary Program

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Thanks First Environmental Excellence Award Winning Businesses For Eliminating 1.4 Million Tons Of Waste, Pollution

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Talks About The Vision And Actions Needed To Restore Our Environment At The PA Environmental Council’s Three Rivers Awards

1996 - Department Of Environmental Protection Mission Statement & Statement Of Values

1995-2002 - DEP Secretary James M. Seif: The Assignment Was Clear - Take The Kick Me! Sign Off DER

1995-2002 - DEP Secretary David E. Hess: Many New Hands Now Help Protect Penn’s Woods

1995-2002 - Environmental Accomplishments Of The Ridge & Schweiker Administrations

1995-2002: Awards And Recognition For Environmental Programs During The Ridge & Schweiker Administrations

[Posted: December 11, 2019]


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