Spokane’s past use of federal dollars to clean up environmental blights earned high marks from a delegation of top state and federal Environmental Protection Agency officials during a visit Tuesday.
“There’s a lot of thoughtfulness here about what neighborhoods can and should be,” said Janet McCabe, deputy administrator of the EPA who is second-in-command of President Joe Biden’s effort to enforce environmental policy. McCabe met with city officials, including Mayor Nadine Woodward, on Tuesday and received a tour of so-called “brownfield” sites in town, areas that had previously been designated as underused due to pollution.
The tour included stops in Hillyard , where city officials are working to identify property owners hoping to redevelop land that historically had been part of bustling railyards northeast of town. McCabe and others also viewed the sights of Riverfront and Huntington parks from City Hall, where federal and state dollars have combined to help move dirt and make way for public uses on land exposed to petroleum and heavy metals in the early 20th century.
Casey Sixkiller, regional administrator for the EPA based in Seattle, said he was impressed by the breadth of Spokane’s use of federal cleanup dollars.
“It’s amazing to see how far from the city center this is happening, and how far the resources have gone,” Sixkiller said.
McCabe urged city officials to continue that tradition and put in applications for money that has been set aside in Congress by the infrastructure bill and the spending plan called the Inflation Reduction Act that passed earlier this year . She specifically mentioned $5 billion in grants supporting electrification of school buses, more charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and the administration’s new emphasis on environmental justice grants, intended to help underserved populations build pollution-prevention practices.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to build on the relationship that we have,” McCabe said.
McCabe was in Tacoma on Wednesday to tour a plant that discovered toxic tire chemicals, before visiting the Puget Sound to announce $36 million in funding for cleanup projects there.
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