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Home > Programs > Ombudsman > Business Roundtable > 3/23/01 Minutes
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RIDEM Quarterly Business Roundtable Meeting Minutes
March 22, 2001

The meeting started with brief introduction by Director Jan Reitsma and Gary Ezovski. There were no changes proposed to the minutes and they were accepted as final.

3. Workplan Update

The Director indicated that the workplan would be finished by July 1. This is important because this will allow DEM's and the federal EPA's workplan to line up. The state will be able to report on the status of projects using one timeline and not two, i.e., a federal and state fiscal year. This is a major change from past practices. The state / EPA workplan will be ready for a May hearing. Members of the Business Roundtable will be notified of the hearing and are encouraged to comment on the proposal.

Janet Keller presented a brief over view this years work plan. She highlighted the following topics:
  • Plans have been developed to resolve the water quality problems in Stafford pond.
  • RIPDES backlog is being reduced
  • The Mercury Action Plan is moving forward.
  • The I/M Program is moving ahead smoothly.
  • The amount of open space protected almost doubled from about 700 acres last year to 1300-1400 acres this year.
Janet also mentioned the year 2000 DEM annual report was finished and advance draft copies were distributed at the meeting.

4. Ozone Transport Commission Update

The Director briefed the group on a Ozone Transport Commission Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and two resolutions. Although he signed off on the document he did not know if the documents were approved by other states. The MOU supported the implementation of a suite of VOC and NOx emission control measures throughout the region.

The resolution on distributed generation recommends cleaner electrical generating facilities to go online first, and encourages additional clean power generation facilities. The second resolution supports efforts of northeast states, interested Indian Tribes and federal land managers to collaborate in a regional planning forum to facilitate the development and implementation of state and tribal regional haze plans.

(Subsequent to the meeting, the OTC MOU on VOC and NOx emission control measures and resolutions on distributed generation and regional haze planning were adopted unanimously by OTC states.)

5. Legislative Update

Environmental Compliance Act SB-808

The bill in its current form needs to be revised. Issues that were previously discussed were not present in the bill. These issues include:
  1. The bill only excludes "willful and intentional " conduct from coverage and does not specifically exclude "knowing" conduct.
  2. The bill does not include the requirement that a facility must comply with judicial and administrative orders for purposes of immunity.
  3. Section 42-17.8-4 does not exclude gross negligence from audit immunity coverage.
The problem arose when an earlier version of the bill was mistakenly used to print the bill. The sponsor has been contacted and changes are being discussed.

Mercury legislation was discussed. The director mentioned that it is important that a regional clearing-house be established. This will standardize the programs and help reduce the potential regulatory burden of affected manufacturers and facilities. The director stressed that there are important safeguards built into the bill, including, but not limited to, exemptions and sliding compliance deadlines. The director responded to a question and noted that systems could be established by which mercury products could be sent back to the original manufacturer for recycling.


There were a number of dredging bills that were being discussed at the legislature. Dredge spoils can be benign but under the existing regulatory framework, it is considered solid waste. DEM will be reviewing its regulations to determine if there is a better regulatory framework to handle this material. The Director mentioned that DEM and CRMC are working together on a dredge management plan.

In-water disposal was discussed and concerns about the physical and chemical characteristics need to be addressed. Ocean dumping is expensive, while in-bay disposal may impact the Rhode Island fisheries. It was mentioned that other states have approved ocean disposal sites. If Rhode Island were to explore any in-bay or ocean disposal options, they should consider a site large enough to be used in the future and not just big enough to handle the current need.

Beach replenishment is an option if the characteristics of the material are appropriate. Not all material can be used for this purpose, because the physical characteristics of the material may make it susceptible to erosion under wave action. If we were to approve this material for upland disposal, a de-watering site needs to be found. One member asked if dredge materials could be regulated under the existing site remediation regulations.

Administrative Warrants

This bill was heard in committee and there are issues that need to be resolved between the ACLU and DEM. We are meeting with them to determine how some of the differences can be worked out.

6. Regulatory Agenda

The director mentioned the draft DEM regulatory agenda was distributed in the handout material. This agenda presents a general outline of DEM's regulation development priorities. Due to time constraints today, we will be prepared to discuss this issue at the next meeting.

7. Overview of the DEM 2002 Budget

Terry Maguire and the Director briefed the group on DEM's state budget submission. The Director mentioned that all state agencies were required to prepare a budget that represented a five per cent reduction from last year budget in order to fund high priority issues of the Governor. DEM was able to defend its budget and even managed a 4.9% increase over last years funding. The department was allowed to maintain its staffing level, but were required to show a 4.6% turnover rate. This means the department can not maintain a full staffing level, because it is assumed that there will be vacancies rate of 4.6%.

As part of the budget process, the Eco-Depot was shifted to the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC). The Youth Litter Corps was recommended to be transferred to the RIRRC. At the present time, it appears the program will be dropped unless the RIRRC or another sponsor picks up the program. Terry mentioned the DEM permit streamlining computerization effort was funded for the year and this should enable DEM to complete development of this program. There was an increase in the Parks and Recreation Capital Budget due to an asset management audit that was undertaken by DEM. Additional funding was appropriated for new vehicles, beach cleaning equipment and facility repairs because of this audit.

8. Pollution Prevention Week

Pollution Prevention is a priority of DEM. In order to focus attention on this issue, DEM would like to acknowledge businesses, municipalities and other facilities that exhibit good P2 practices. In the past, the Governor presented awards to recognize facilities that used P2 in their businesses. DEM would like to co-sponsor an awards ceremony in the second week of September for leaders in the P2 field and is looking for potential partners to co-sponsor the event. DEM will also be looking to members of the Business Roundtable to recommend candidates for these awards. The Director mentioned that he would like to investigate a legislative award component of P2 Week.

9. RI XL Program Discussion

DEM is investigating developing a program that rewards facilities that implement programs that go beyond compliance. In the federal model, the concept is usually geared to larger businesses. In Rhode Island, there are more small to medium sized companies and the federal incentives may not apply here. DEM had awarded a contract, using EPA funding to try to investigate incentives for these smaller sized companies. Brown will use focus groups to try to scope out these measures. The meeting members were polled to get some ideas of incentives that would be useful to them. Ideas included the following:
  • Expedited permitting reviews
  • Less frequent inspections
  • Incentives should be tied to a company being able to save money
  • Tax incentives for P2
  • Allow companies to be regulated under the EPA regulations for small generator, rather than the more stringent Rhode Island requirements.
  • Tangible incentives are important, and we should not rely on "feel good" incentives.
10. Open Forum

Mickey Gill mentioned that a National Oil Research Alliance (NORA) was formed to work on research issues of interest to the industry. There may be a tie-in to the Brookhaven National Labs that is performing research on clean burning equipment.

Another person was interested in a discussion on open space opportunities at the local level.

One person questioned the value of funding a dams program $200,000, when the cost to repair a dam can be in the order of $800,000. The director mentioned tat the $200,000 was money for local governments to begin a planning process to inventory and determine the status of dams in their locality. If the Governor's proposed legislation were to pass, additional funds would be available to fix dams that needed repairs.

The meeting was adjourned and the next meeting was set for Monday, June18, 2001. This is a change from the normal fourth Thursday of the month meeting date, because this is the end of the legislative session and people may need to be available for legislative issues that will be heard late in the session.

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