Brownfields 2009–Sustainable Communities Start Here

About 10 months ago, I wrote an entry for Greenversations on Region 6’s Brown-to-Green initiative to develop renewable energy on previously contaminated sites. Today, I wanted to bring you up to date on this continuing effort to make your community more sustainable.

Brownfields 2009 was held in New Orleans, Louisiana on November 16 through 18. Each year thousands of like-minded citizens; commercial developers; financiers, and municipal, state, tribal and federal agency representatives gather together to share success stories, lessons learned and new approaches to bringing properties back into useful production across the country. Some of the country’s top urban planners and commercial developers spoke, took part in panel discussions and were available for interaction with the conference participants. This year over 4,500 individuals registered to participate in the dozens of panel discussions and workshops.

And while it is too late to participate in this year’s conference, in the next few weeks you will be able to access the presentations at Brownfields 2009. There is a lot of great work going on across the country and it could be applicable to your city or neighborhood.

For me, some of the conference sessions were quite informative: Joint Planning for Renewable Energy Projects; Green Infrastructure on Brownfields; Using Brownfields to Update America’s Industrial and Energy Production Capacity; Brownfield & Redevelopment Efforts on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the Wake of Katrina; and I Have an Oil Well in My Backyard! – Oil and Gas Exploration & Production experiences. I chaired a panel entitled “Making the Connection to Renewable Energy: A How-to Guide for Renewable Energy Projects” that attracted over 100 audience members and ran over 1.5 hours due to the in-depth nature of the speakers’ presentations and high caliber of questions raised by the audience.

In addition to taking part in the formal panels and discussion groups, sampling some of the world’s greatest cuisine and unique musical venues, several dozen EPA staffers and managers from around the country worked Sunday afternoon at the Andrew H. Wilson Elementary School planting trees and bushes as part of the water collection and diversion system. Wilson Elementary was damaged by flooding during Hurricane Katrina but has been rebuilt and expanded as a LEED certified “gold” public school, incorporating the original 1907 structure. The school is scheduled to re-open in January 2010.

About the author: Rob Lawrence joined EPA in 1990 and is Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Issues in the Dallas, TX regional office. As an economist, he works to insure that both supply and demand components are addressed as the Region develops its Clean Energy and Climate Change Strategy.