The Customer and Technical Assistance (OCTA) provides assistance to the general public, state and local governments, and the business community concerning compliance with rules, regulations, environmental standards, and the permitting process. One aspect of this service is to coordinate pre-application assistance to companies and to individuals seeking permits. Prospective applicants for environmental permits will be able to have a single point of contact who will provide information on permits required, including permits for large facilities where more than one type of environmental permit is required. Another service is to coordinate the application review process for projects that require more than one environmental permit such as the permitting of large facilities that involve air emissions as well as construction that involves more than five acres (which requires a stormwater permit). Part of this coordination function is to track projects that the Economic Development Corporation's Board has determined to be of Critical Economic Concern.
OCTA also serves as an information repository for the Department's regulations and policies so that the public can easily access these regulations and policies. In addition, the Office will maintain user-friendly descriptions of the regulations so that the public can easily determine the requirements associated with the regulations.
OCTA is responsible for administering a variety of Green Certification programs for RI businesses. Specific checklists provide a menu of Best Management Practices (BMPs) covering a range of activities focusing on efficient business management and water conservation practices in Rhode Island. Participation in the program will significantly reduce a company's environmental impact. Becoming a "green" certified business begins with practicing Pollution Prevention (P2). Pollution Prevention means to prevent pollution by reducing the sources of pollution. Data collected by RIDEM provides us with information on how a specific industry is performing with regards to P2. It allows RIDEM to recognize businesses who are doing good work and it allows us to assist businesses achieve P2 goals. Checklists are a tool to evaluate P2 performance. Checklists provide a menu of pollution prevention practices that may be employed in each business. The goal of each checklist is to choose the P2 practices that your business currently employs and to score yourself based on the points provided. Some of the benefits of this program are: it allows businesses to cut down on the costs of hazardous and toxic products that they purchase; it allows business to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals to staff, the public and the environment; and it often allows for reduced regulatory burdens, reduced permit fees, enhanced public image, and a healthier environment. Once certified, a business will be awarded a certificate to display on your company property and to use for advertising/marketing (website, literature, decals, etc.) purposes.
OCTA also provides pollution prevention assistance to businesses, industry, and governmental agencies to help them prevent and minimize pollution at the source of generation. This outreach function includes: on-site technical assistance; training programs, conferences, and workshops; and both regulatory and economic incentives to prevent pollution and to minimize the generation of pollutant wastes associated with industrial processes. This program works with businesses to develop cost-effective ways to reduce toxic and hazardous material use and waste in the workplace.
The DEM staff working with the pollution prevention program do not report regulatory violations nor do they issue enforcement actions with penalties for non-compliance. This separation of DEM's assistance and enforcement functions is designed to make the assistance program more attractive to industry.