Montana Senator defied Republican majority; is now celebrating $5.7 million for brownfields and community revitalization

On May 30, 2023, U.S. Senator Jon Tester of Montana announced that he had helped secure $5.7 million in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant funding for six Montana projects to clean up brownfield pollution sites and revitalize the economy.

As a Democrat in a red state, he was the only member of Montana’s delegation to vote for President Joe Biden‘s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the primary legislation that is now revitalizing communities all across America.

The funding was delivered through the through the Multipurpose, Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup (MARC) Grant program and Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund Grant program.

As a third-generation farmer, I understand many of the challenges folks in rural America face, including the lasting impacts of toxic waste,” said Tester.

Cleaning up and revitalizing Montana’s remaining Brownfield sites breathes new life into our communities by creating some real opportunities for economic development. That’s why I’m proud to have secured this funding in my Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for cleanup projects across Big Sky Country to spur economic growth and improve the quality of life for folks from Glendive to Kalispell,” he added.

EPA’s Brownfields Program provides grants and technical assistance to communities, states, Tribes and others to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties.

A brownfield is a property, whose expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

Montana recipients include:

  • $500,000 to clean up and revitalize properties in Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Whitefish, Montana;
  • $1 million to clean up and revitalize properties in downtown Billings, Montana;
  • $460,000 for cleanup and revitalization of properties in Stillwater, Carbon and Big Horn Counties and the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Indian Reservations;
  • $2.25 million for cleanup and revitalization of properties in Glendive, Wolf Point, Poplar, and other communities across eastern Montana;
  • $500,000 for cleanup and revitalization of properties in Great Falls and Cascade County, Montana;
  • $1 million for the cleanup and revitalization of properties in Cut Bank and Sunburst.

EPA’s award to Big Sky Economic Development is among six grants totaling more than $5.7 million for cleanup and revitalization projects in communities across Montana.

Outstanding! This will be a tremendous tool to support the community’s redevelopment goals,” said Steve Arveschoug, Executive Director, Big Sky Economic Development.

The Big Sky Economic Development team has had successful experience providing Brownfields assessments for development projects, now totaling over $1.5 million. This new loan program allows us to move these assessments to cleanup projects that facilitate new private investment in the heart of our community,” he continued.

These funds are part of President Joe Biden’s Investing in America Agenda to expedite the assessment and cleanup of brownfield sites while advancing environmental justice through the Multipurpose, Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup (MARC) Grant programs.

Tester worked across the aisle for months to negotiate the IIJA with a group of five Republicans, four Democrats, and the White House. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law law (which Senator Tester like to call “Tester’s Law”) is projected to create more than 800,000 American jobs and lower costs for businesses by making targeted investments that will strengthen our nation without raising taxes on working families.

The funding includes $2.82 billion for Montana’s roads, highways, and bridges; $2.5 billion to complete all authorized Indian water rights settlements; $1 billion to complete all authorized rural water projects through the Bureau of Reclamation; $65 billion to deploy broadband to areas across the country that lack internet access and additionally make online connectivity affordable; and $3.37 billion to reduce wildfire risk nationwide, among others.

The Big Sky Economic Development Authority will receive a $1 million Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) Grant, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to conduct cleanup and revitalization at several properties in downtown Billings, Montana. Targeted properties include an aging industrial area characterized by rail distribution facilities, building supply companies and automotive service centers.

This EPA Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding is supporting critical cleanup projects that will address known health concerns and revive historic locations in the City of Billings’ Downtown Core,” said EPA Regional Administrator KC Becker. “We look forward to seeing these efforts transform blighted properties into new community assets.

Big Sky Economic Redevelopment will use the EPA funds to address several priority sites for cleanup, including historic buildings in downtown Billings and former industrial locations with potential for renovation into affordable housing, commercial space and recreational uses.

These sites include the 1.3-acre Stockton Oil Company property, a former 28,000-square-foot Masonic Temple, the former City Hall, the 92,000-square-foot Billings Gazette building and the 75-acre coal-fired Corette Power Plant, which was decommissioned in 2015. Contaminants of concern at these properties include petroleum compounds, asbestos, lead-based paints, fly ash waste and metals.

Reuse plans for these properties include opportunities for the creation of new businesses, jobs and greenspace. The Masonic Temple, City Hall and the Billings Gazette building are located within two blocks of each other in the historic downtown center.

These iconic buildings have generated strong community interest in their reuse, with significant potential as affordable, high-density housing with ground-level retail and office space. These three properties represent a unique opportunity to create a connected, walkable community with housing, commerce, entertainment and job opportunities.

The former Stockton Oil Company Property offers a prime opportunity for mixed-use industrial and commercial redevelopment due to its central location.

The cleanup of the 75-acre Corette Power Plant property on the western bank of the Yellowstone River offers an opportunity to transform the large site into greenspace and a community park, linking downtown to the riverfront and providing community gathering and recreational opportunities for the Billings community.

Thanks to the historic $1.5 billion boost from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA’s Brownfields Program is helping more communities than ever begin to address the economic, social and environmental challenges caused by brownfields and stimulate economic opportunity and environmental revitalization in historically overburdened communities.

Photo of Billings City Hall building courtesy of US EPA.

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