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April 21, 2012

Young introduces bill to speed up River Ridge development

Layer of protection hopes to entice more growth

A House Resolution introduced by Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., may help to speed up development at River Ridge Commerce Center.

Resolution 4407, known as the Base Redevelopment and Indemnification Correction Act, would help former military installations that were closed outside of the normal Base Realignment and Closure process receive protections against liability when businesses redevelop the sites.

While there are a handful of bases that the law would apply to, it would immediately help the former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant, said Trevor Foughty, a spokesman for Young.

“It will provide us some additional environmental protection and indemnification if some future tenant discovers some contamination,” said River Ridge Executive Director Jerry Acy. “It puts a lot more urgency on the federal government to clean up, [if they] would discover anything after the fact. It’s the same environmental protection given under a [military base] closure.”

Businesses which redevelop military installations closed under the base realignment guidelines are given protection from legal action and costs associated with the release of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants used in Department of Defense activities. Most bases are closed under the base realignment guidelines, but a handful have been closed by the Secretary of Defense outside of that process, according to a press release from Young’s office.

The northern portion of the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant, which is now Charlestown State Park, was closed under the base realignment guidelines. But the southern portion of the 6,000-acre site — which was reserved for economic development by the state and county through the River Ridge Development Authority — was not closed under the guidelines.

While the federal government has cleaned up most of the property, businesses that help redevelop River Ridge are not guaranteed protection from issues that might arise from the production of ammunition decades ago, according to the release.

“This bill would simply minimize risk for potential job creators at places like River Ridge in the same way that we minimize risk for potential job creators at any other closed military facility,” Young said in the release. “It’s a glaring loophole that is holding back economic development in Southern Indiana, but we think we’ve found an easy solution. Because the proposed east-end bridge and Interstate 265 extension run along the River Ridge property, the timing on this couldn’t be better to help kick-start the local economy.”

Despite removing some liability issues for businesses related to contaminants on-site, Foughty said the resolution offers no changes in any environmental restrictions. He explained that at River Ridge, the Army Corps of Engineers still needs to clean up the site before the land is transferred. But what the resolution provides protection from is if something was missed by the Department of Defense, which he said would assume responsibility for contamination under the resolution.

He said the bill would not affect the agreement with River Ridge and the Department of Defense. It would remove some doubt that businesses have when they agree to locate in River Ridge that they won’t be hit with any unforeseen cleanup costs.

By taking care of any issues expeditiously, the hope is development will continue to thrive at the former ammunition plant.

“If you ask any economic development expert in the area, nearly every one of them will tell you that River Ridge is the biggest opportunity for new jobs and growth in our area,” Young said in the release. “Amazon and the 1,000 jobs they are bringing to River Ridge is proof of that fact. But concerns about the chemicals used in the production of ammunition bring up legal liability issues that make many businesses hesitant to invest there.

“This legislation would solve that problem by putting a sort of insurance policy on the property for businesses that locate there.”

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