President Bush has signed legislation that officials say will give a push to converting polluted former industrial sites into new commercial zones or parkland. Along with signing the "brownfields" bill on Jan. 11, Bush said his fiscal 2003 budget proposal would seek to double funding the Environmental Protection Agency's brownfields program.

Bush signs brownfields bill as lawmakers, EPA's Whitman look on. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

The White House says the request would be $200 million, compared with the 2002

level of $98 million. The $200 million is the amount the newly enacted measure authorizes per year, but that sum is subject to annual appropriations.

EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman says, "This bill will give communities all across the country the tools they need to reclaim and restore thousands of brownfields...."

Besides the brownfields legislation's sharp increase in authorized funds, it provides liability protection for "innocent parties," such as those who own brownfields that are contaminated by pollution from adjacent sites.

Bush said that the new legislation "addresses the problem of land which has already been developed, and the abandoned. American cities have many such eyesores--anywhere from 500,000 to a million brownfields are across our nation. These areas once supported manufacturing and commerce, and now lie empty--adding nothing of value to the community, and sometimes only causing problems."