She is introducing the Brownfields Redevelopment Tax Incentive Reauthorization Act and rallying support for President Barrack Obama's budget request of $161 million for the Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Program.
"I hear over and over again from local leaders and business owners that one of the best ways we can revitalize our cities and towns is to support brownfields cleanup efforts," Esty said Tuesday.
"Cities and towns throughout central and northwest Connecticut have strong industrial histories and are now in the process of transitioning into new sources of economic growth," she said. "I'm doing what I can to be a strong partner in these efforts."
Esty visited the Century Brass Mill site in New Milford on Tuesday with New Milford Mayor Patricia Murphy. She lauded Murphy for her "tireless efforts" that brought a $2.5 million state grant to the town for the demolition and environmental cleanup of the 320,000-square-foot Century Brass building.
The town plans to develop the 72-acre site as industrial property and possibly move the Public Works Department there.
"Had Century Brass had this incentive in place, it would have been something they could have used to restore the site, rather than defaulting on their taxes," Esty said about the redevelopment tax incentive.
The town took ownership of the 72-acre site in 1999 in a tax foreclosure. The mill closed in 1986.
The town tried unsuccessfully for a decade to find a buyer to clean up and redevelop the property, an EPAdesignated mega-brownfields site. The town has already invested in a multimillion-dollar environmental cleanup of the land with federal and state loans and grants.
Esty's bill would reauthorize an incentive program to allow taxpayers to fully deduct the costs of environmental cleanups of brownfields in the year the costs were incurred. The original act was passed in 1997. However, following a two-year extension in 2009, the incentive expired Jan. 1, 2012.
"Brownfields cleanups have been treated like capital investments in the tax laws, and they really are repairs and should be taxed as such," Esty added.
Murphy noted the Century Brass site is above a layer of underground water, and completing the environmental cleanup there contributes to the health of the community, as well as the town's economic viability.
"We are looking at this area to relocate the Public Works campus," Murphy said. "If that happens, and the present Public Works site (along the Housatonic River) were classified as a brownfields site, a private individual could buy the property and get this tax incentive to clean it up and revitalize it."
"Government ought to make it easy for people to do the right thing," Esty said. "We don't want properties looking like this in our communities.
"Cleaning them up, revitalizing them, changes the character of the community, creating a feeling of growth and vitality. You can't measure that in dollars."