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Home > Programs > Ombudsman > Business Roundtable > 1/11/01 Minutes
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RIDEM Quarterly Business Roundtable Meeting Minutes
January 11, 2001

The January 11, 2001 meeting of the Business Roundtable was held in Room 300, in 235 Promenade Street, Providence. There were no comments made concerning the previous meeting notes at this meeting and roundtable members were requested to send any corrections to Tom Getz.

  1. Energy / Greenhouse Gas Discussion
  2. The Director opened the discussion and said that it was important to get ahead of the problem. In Rhode Island ninety-nine percent of greenhouse gasses are attributed to the combustion of fossil fuels. Our per capita growth is higher than the United States average. He in looking at a voluntary approach that can be built on existing programs. Rhode Island is just a contributor to the overall problem. In order to have our program be effective we need to coordinate our work with regional and national efforts.

    Janet Keller gave a brief overview of the Rhode Island Greenhouse Gas program. She mentioned that we have been coordinating our efforts with the Department of Energy and the Governor's Office. A Steering Committee meeting has been held and this group will break into other stakeholder groups to begin to shape the Rhode Island program. The goal is to develop an Action Plan in the next twelve to eighteen months. The director would like to see the Steering Committee meet on a quarterly basis to ensure that our program moves forward.

    Charlene Garland of the Clean Air-Cool Plant Organization briefed the group on greenhouse gas issues including the potential environmental impacts on the Northeast. The goals of her organization was to:

      Highlight the economic benefits of including greenhouse gas emissions in energy use strategies

      Achieve and highlight emission reduction efforts from small business partners, and

      Educate the small business community on climate change and the benefits of early action

    She further discussed the environmental and economic benefits of adopting a green house reduction program that included cost savings from adopting energy efficient practices and how reduction of greenhouse gasses often had side benefits of reducing other regulated pollutants. In addition, Clean Air - Cool Planets could work with small business to provide energy audit and emission reduction assessment tools, and technical assistance for implementing and documenting strategies.

  3. DEM Legislative Overview

    The Director, Bob Ballou and Elizabeth Stone gave an overview of DEM's legislative package for 2001 and other environmental legislation that might impact on the business community.

    Environmental Compliance Act

    This is not a DEM initiative, but DEM does support the general concept of shifting more of the responsibility of environmental compliance to the business community. Mike Geisser mentioned they are lining up a sponsor for the bill. Bob Mendoza of EPA reviewed the draft bill and was on board with the concept.

    Mercury Reduction and Education

    This bill would adopt portions of the Model Legislation for Mercury Education and Reduction Act as endorsed by the New England Governors Conference in 1998. The model legislation provides a framework to help states in New England develop a regionally consistent approach to: 1) minimizing mercury in products sold and distributed in New England, and 2) managing mercury-containing wastes.

    Some of the proposed legislative elements include:

      Notification to DEM of certain mercury added products sold in RI,

      Implementation of bans on certain mercury added products,

      Authorization for DEM to participate in a regional clearinghouse for mercury reduction, and

      Encourages the State to purchase low or non-mercury-added products.

      Development of public education and outreach measures.

    The director is supportive of a regional approach that has appropriate exemptions and sliding implementation deadlines. He mentioned that companies could be exempt from the disposal ban if they can show the material can be recycled. Some potentially impacted facilities include hospitals, dairies and dental offices.

    Administrative Search Warrants

    This bill would establish an administrative search warrant provision that DEM could use as a mechanism for gaining access to private property to conduct civil inspections. The bill clarifies, but does not expand DEM's authority to conduct a range of civil inspections without a warrant pursuant to constitutional law, while enabling the Director to obtain a warrant, if necessary or appropriate, to access private property under certain circumstances. This warrant would be an effective tool in helping resolve nuisances or cases where there are health-related impacts. The bill would bring Rhode Island in line with other New England states with regard to the availability of an administrative search warrant provision. The Attorney Generals Office helped in the drafting of this bill.

    A comment was made that the bill has no provision that specifically requires DEM be denied access prior to going to court to request an administrative search warrant. The Director mentioned there are times when DEM will need an element of surprise when it conducts this type of inspection. In these instances, it is preferable to have an administrative warrant issued instead of just showing up and performing an inspection.

    Coastal Habitat Restoration

    This bill would establish a statewide coastal habitat restoration program jointly administered by DEM and Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMC), and funded with a fixed percentage of receipts collected under the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program (OSPAR). A statewide restoration plan and a technical advisory committee would guide the program. Funds would be awarded through local and state grants. This is not a DEM initiative, but it strongly supports this legislation.

    The need for State funding is now more important than ever given recent passage of the Estuaries and Clean Water Act of 2000 - a federal statute authorizing significant federal funding for coastal habitat restoration projects, contingent upon the availability of state funds.

    Some concerns were raised about the bill. Although there was support for the concept of bill, there were issues raised about the funding source. In addition, since there was federal dollars available for this work, could we look at reducing the amount of money that was being raised by the existing funding mechanism? OSPAR is funded to prepare the state for oil spills; therefore there should be a nexus with spending that money for oil spill prevention activities. Another person commented that perhaps a portion of OSPAR, (25% was mentioned) could be used for coastal habitat restoration projects. There was another suggestion that further discussions should be held to work on the funding source issue.

  4. Permit Streamlining

    Tom Getz mentioned that DEM would begin to evaluate the Waste Management Program to look for opportunities to streamline the existing environmental permitting / review process. As with the Wetlands and ISDS Task Forces this new initiative will give stakeholders an opportunity to help create change and to understand the rational for the existing system. He requested people to contact him at 222-4700 X2417 or if they were interested in working on this Task Force.

    The kick-off meeting is February 22, 2001, Room 450, 235 Promenade Street, Providence, 3:30-5:00 PM.

  5. Arsenic Policy

    There have been a few issues raised by the DEM Arsenic policy. The current policy indicates the Department may audit the certification of background levels of arsenic and may require additional information and/or sampling at the site. The group was interested in the criteria DEM will be using to conduct this audit. Another issue raised was how lead levels were used in the characterization of the site.

    Leo Hellested mentioned that the interim policy was finalized on November 24, 2000. He said that seven assessments were submitted using the policy, four have been approved and the other three are near the end of the review process. The arsenic issue is controversial and he is considering three program directions, i.e.,

      Use the existing procedure and finalize it;

      Codify some of the audit and assessment criteria through a stakeholder group; or

      Reevaluate the existing policy after six months and make appropriate modifications.

    Leo mentioned that if we were to be more proscriptive, it could limit DEM's flexibility in reviewing site remediation applications.

    There was a general discussion on the policy. The following issues were discussed:

      It would be helpful if DEM would post applications that were approved on its homepage.

      If DEM were to develop more specific assessment criteria, there would be more consistency in the decision-making process.

      Questions were raised about the ramifications of DEM's audit of a consultant's report. Who would be responsible for site remediation, or what are the consequences of the audit, especially if the property changed hands as a result of the consultant's report

    The director said he would like to give the policy a chance to work over the next six months. He was interested in having the regulated community work with the policy, but if there are problems, they should give us specific suggestions for improvement.

  6. Oil Heat Institute Piping Recommendations

    Peter Lombardi of the Rhode Island Oil Heat Institute updated the group on his efforts to finalize guidelines for aboveground fuel oil storage for oil burners in residential and small commercial applications. He mentioned that he had support of DEM, the State Fire Marshall and State Buildings Commissions. He distributed a brochure that explains these guidelines. He also mentioned that the Oil industry would be funding work on greenhouse gasses.

  7. Financial Concern with the DOH Well-testing Program
  8. Point of Use Treatment Program

    These two topics are interrelated. Concerns were raised that the DEM funding mechanism to test drinking water wells near spill sites was no longer available for this purpose. There was also no funding available to fix problems once they were found.

    Leo Hellested mentioned the federal grant that was used to conduct well testing near CERCLIS sites, i.e., sites where there may be spills of hazardous waste, needed to be directed to specific sites and funding could not be used to pay for a general well testing program. DEM will, however, continue to monitor the CERCLIS sites. He has discussed this issue with the Department of Health and they do not have a lot of funding set aside for this purpose either.

    As a result of a site in North Smithfield, Representative Patrick Kennedy is aware of this issue and DEM will follow up to determine if there is any additional federal funding available for well monitoring or water filters to temporarily fix the problem. Bob Mendoza of EPA mentioned if a problem could be linked to a specific source, federal funding may be available.

    The Director reluctantly mentioned that private well testing is under the jurisdiction of the Health Department. This agency is tasked with ensuring the state's water supply. He mentioned that the Department of Health is introducing private well legislation and this issue may come up during the discussion of the bill.

    The formal agenda discussion was complete. Gary Ezovski mentioned that there is an Earth Day Banquet in April and nominees are being solicited for the Sen. John Chafee Award.

    The following meeting dates for were set for the Business Roundtable:

    March 22, 2001
    June 18, 2001
    September 27, 2001
    January 10, 2002

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