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Federal brownfield grants

The U.S. EPA provides several types of grants for the environmental assessment and cleanup of brownfields and brownfields-related activities.

Many communities in Wisconsin apply for these federal grants, and seek the DNR's guidance for preparing materials. Use the following tabs and pages as a guideline, or contact RR Program staff for more assistance. You can also visit the EPA website for more information.

Grant basics

Grant basics

Eligible applicants
  • Eligible entities include local governments, regional councils, redevelopment agencies, tribes, coalitions of eligible organizations and other government entities.
  • Nonprofit organizations are eligible for cleanup grants.
  • The applicant must not have caused the contamination.
Eligible activities
  • There are three types of brownfield grants: assessment, environmental cleanup and revolving loan funds (the "Summary chart" tab contains more information).
  • Grants can be used at properties that meet the federal definition of a brownfield: "real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant." The contaminated area cannot be a Superfund site.
  • Most properties with petroleum contamination are eligible.
Application deadlines
  • The EPA establishes annual deadlines, usually in fall or winter.
Funding amounts
  • The EPA usually has about $60 million nationwide and awards about 300 grants.
Cost share
  • There is no cost share for assessment grants. There is a 20% cost share for revolving loan fund (RLF) and cleanup grants. This may be a contribution of money, labor, material or services.
Additional information
Wisconsin Applicants

Summary chart

Federal brownfield grants summary chart

The following chart describes the three types of EPA brownfield grants.

Type of grant This grant covers Maximum award
Assessment Grant
  • 3-year grant
  • No cost share
  • Application does not have to specify sites
  • Inventory and assessment of local brownfields
  • Planning and community involvement
  • Environmental investigations
  • Planning for cleanup and redevelopment
  • Maximum $400,000 per applicant per year, half for hazardous substances and half for petroleum
  • Up to $1 million per year for coalitions of three or more
Cleanup Grant
  • 3-year grant
  • 20% cost share
  • Applicant must own the property by June 30
  • Phase 1 assessment must be completed and Phase 2 must be underway
  • Environmental cleanup
  • Cannot receive more than three grants per year
  • Nonprofits may apply
  • $200,000 per site
  • Applicant should be ready to proceed.
Revolving Loan Fund Grant
  • 5-year grant
  • 20% cost share
  • Application may not be site-specific
  • Environmental cleanup
  • Use 60% to capitalize a revolving loan fund
  • Use up to 40% to award subgrants to other eligible entities
  • 25% of total award may be for petroleum cleanup
  • $1,000,000
  • Coalitions may apply for $1 million each
  • Applicant establishes interest rate (can be 0%)

DNR acknowledgment letter


The EPA requires grant applicants other than tribal environmental authorities to obtain a letter from the DNR acknowledging that the state is aware the applicant is applying for a federal grant to conduct brownfield assessment, revolving loan fund or cleanup activities.

You can request your state letter of acknowledgment from the DNR by contacting Molly Schmidt via email. Please submit your request at least two weeks prior to the EPA's application deadline to allow adequate time for the DNR to draft and deliver the letter.

New EPA Requirement for Cleanup Grants. A new EPA requirement for cleanup grant applicants affects the state acknowledgment letter for cleanup grants. Cleanup grant applicants must demonstrate that a proposed property was sufficiently characterized and is ready for the cleanup to begin. For any requested state acknowledgement letters for cleanup grants, the DNR may describe:

  • The general status of a property in the state’s contaminated site cleanup process

  • The enrollment eligibility of the property in the voluntary party liability exemption program

  • The specific site characterization and remediation status of the property, as listed in BRRTS, as well as the status of submittals and any requested DNR technical reviews

For all grants, include the following information:

  • Type of grant being applied for: multipurpose, assessment, cleanup or revolving loan fund

  • The name, title and mailing address of the person to whom the letter should be addressed (i.e., the representative of the entity applying for the grant)

  • A general description of the community concerns about the property related to brownfields, socioeconomic challenges and redevelopment needs

For assessment grants, include the following information:

  • The property address, a brief history of ownership, a brief history of site-specific land use and why the property is suspected of being contaminated; include DNR Bureau for Remediation and Redevelopment Tracking System (BRRTS) identification number(s), if applicable

For cleanup grants, include the following information:

  • The property address, a brief history of ownership, a brief history of site-specific land uses and why the property is known to be contaminated; include BRRTS identification number(s), if applicable

  • A statement of whether the applicant and/or landowner intends to enroll the property in the voluntary party liability exemption program

  • The approximate timeframe to complete site investigation, begin cleanup at the property, submit reports required under Wis. Admin. Code chs. NR 700-799 and estimated time for DNR staff review

For petroleum contamination cleanup or assessment grants, include the following information:

  • The current property owner, occupant and the immediate past-owner of the property

  • The date and method by which the current owner acquired the property (e.g., purchase, tax foreclosure)

  • Whether the applicant, the current owner, or immediate past-owner dispensed or disposed of petroleum on the property

  • Whether the applicant, the current owner, or immediate past-owner took reasonable steps to contain any known contamination

  • Whether there are any state or federal environmental judgments or orders, or third-party suits or claims against the current or immediate past-owner, and if the current or immediate past-owner has the financial means to comply

  • Reasons why any of the above information may not be available

For more information about petroleum grant applications see the "Petroleum eligibility" tab on this page.

Request your state letter of acknowledgment from the DNR by contacting Molly Schmidt via email. 

Petroleum eligibility

Obtaining site-specific petroleum eligibility determinations for assessment and cleanup grants

If you are applying for a petroleum cleanup grant, or have been awarded an area-wide petroleum assessment grant, you will need approval to use those funds for each property. The EPA has delegated these determinations to the states. To obtain approval to assess a Wisconsin property for petroleum contamination using an EPA brownfield assessment grant, or if you are applying for a petroleum cleanup grant, please complete the application below for each property.

Please send the application by email to Michael Prager. If you send this information by mail, please address it to:

  • Michael Prager - RR/5
    PO Box 7921
    Madison WI 53707

Helpful hints

Tips for applicants

Disclaimer: These tips are Wisconsin DNR interpretations of the federal guidelines. See the federal guidelines for complete application requirements.

1. Decide what you need and what you can administer

Determine which of the three types of federal grants you will apply for. Revolving loan funds (RLFs) are fairly complex and present a lot of administrative work for small communities.

Decide whether your application will be for petroleum, hazardous substances or both. The EPA must award 25% of its funding for petroleum.

Cleanup grants must be site specific. Revolving loan fund grants may not be site-specific. Assessment grants may be either.

2. Your application

Submit your application by the deadline electronically through [exit DNR].

Submit a complete, separate application for each grant and prepare a separate cover letter for each. Applications should be concise, organized in the format provided by the EPA and conform to the EPA's page limits, font sizes, etc.

Remember that the EPA's threshold criteria are pass-fail questions.

3. Your community notification plan

For cleanup grants, you must create a community notification plan and accept public comments as part of your grant application. For assessment and revolving loan funds, community notification may start after a grant is awarded.

You may start to implement your plan immediately by making the community aware of your plans, or you may wait until the EPA notifies you that you will receive a grant. If you wait, you must start to implement your plan as soon as the EPA tells you that you will receive a grant but before you have signed a cooperative agreement. The work plan that you will provide to the EPA in order to obtain your cooperative agreement must describe the actions that you have already taken to implement your community notification plan, including your responses to public comments.

4. Revolving loan fund (RLF) applications

For revolving loan fund applications, you must include a legal opinion from your counsel which covers your authority to access and secure sites.

Applicants for RLFs may require subgrantees and loan applicants to pay the DNR technical review fees in order to help ensure that their cleanup plans and actions will be appropriate.

The "Cleanup Authority & Oversight Structure" section may be addressed by referring to the DNR's regulatory authority to approve environmental investigations and cleanups under s. 292, Wis. Stats., and ch. NR 700, Wis. Adm. Code. Applicants with environmental consultants may also refer to their standard operating procedures and quality assurance plans.

5. Getting help

The EPA will respond to questions about their threshold criteria for eligibility, including the sometimes-problematic timing of property ownership.