By Philip L. Comella and William R. Schubert

Earlier this week, we blogged about the broad range of “reform options” for energy incentives that members of Congress are drafting, and the fast pace at which this area of public policy can move.

Now the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University has spotlighted an EPA alternate energy initiative as one of the Top 25 Innovations in American Government for the year 2012.

The EPA program, called the “RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative,” promotes alternate energy projects –  for example, those involving energy sources such as wind, sunlight, biomass, geothermal systems, and landfill gas – at contaminated properties, mine sites, and landfills.

According to EPA’s fact sheet, contaminated properties, mine sites, and landfills are “environmentally and economically beneficial for siting renewable energy facilities because they:

  • Offer thousands of acres of land with few site owners;
  • Often have critical infrastructure in place including electric transmission lines, roads and water on-site, and are adequately zoned for such development;
  • Provide an economically viable reuse for sites with significant cleanup costs or low real estate development demand;
  • Take the stress off undeveloped lands for construction of new energy facilities, preserving the land carbon sink; and
  • Provide job opportunities in urban and rural communities.

In connection with the Initiative, EPA has published an online summary tracking the progress of completed renewable energy projects on potentially contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites.

Incentivizing the reuse of old contaminated sites has been a bright spot on EPA’s resume for some time.  EPA’s Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative  was among 10 government programs that received grant money in connection with the Innovations in American Government Awards program in 2000.