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RIDEM Quarterly Business Roundtable Meeting Minutes
March 23, 2000
The spring meeting of the Business Roundtable was held on March 23, 2000 at the DEM offices in Providence. Director Jan Reitsma and Gary Ezovski co-chaired the meeting. The January meeting notes were approved as written.
A meeting packet was distributed to the participants that included handouts and a copy of the Business Roundtable Newsletter. The newsletter provided detailed information on many agenda items and participants were directed to these articles.
The director gave a brief overview of the workplan. He explained that he would be using this tool to review the progress of the agency on a quarterly basis. For the first six months of the year, the agency was meeting objectives for approximately 94% of the tasks. A handout was distributed that detailed areas where there were program slippage in the environmental programs.
Ron Gagnon briefed the group on the Environmental Compliance Incentive Act. He had scheduled a meeting on April 14, 2000 to finalize the policy. The use of an Environmental Management System review was an important concept in this compliance tool. Environmental organizations will be contacted to get their comments on this proposed legislation.
The Oil Heat Tanks workgroup report distributed the "Guidelines for Above Ground Fuel Oil Storage in Residential and Small Commercial Applications". The guidelines are to be used by the industry to minimize the possibility of an oil spill in a residence or a small commercial application. This group would like this guidance to be incorporated into the State Building Code. The Director indicated that once the guidance was finalized a joint letter could be written to the Building Commissioner supporting the policy. Terry Gray will coordinate DEM's comments on these guidelines.
A copy of the "Interim Policy for Arsenic in Soil" was distributed and discussed. The director raised the issue about the evaluation of health impacts from high background levels of arsenic. Terry Gray explained that the policy uses input from the Department of Health and includes other risk-based limits. He also indicated the issue of bioavailability of arsenic could be evaluated to derive alternative risk-based standards. The results of a major national study on this issue should be available in the next year. There were other questions concerning what constitutes a release of arsenic on a property and the mechanism for regulatory action, i.e., will DEM use the upper bound or the average of the material sampled? These issues and others will be discussed in April, at a DEM technical subcommittee meeting.
There was a brief discussion of the permit streamlining process. Tom Getz informed the group that the Wetlands Task Force was currently meeting and there will be task forces that deal with ISDS, Air, Waste and Water issues. He also mentioned that the issue of Site Remediation and Oil Pollution overlaps would be referred to the Waste Task Force. The purpose of the task forces is to find ways to streamline permit processes, and to protect the environment through exiting DEM administrative, policy and regulatory mechanisms. If needed, the department will look at statutory changes.
The Director reviewed the DEM policy for "Critical Timelines for the Enforcement Process". This is a common sense approach on how the department will react to complaints, evaluate inspections, provide compliance assistance, and conduct enforcement actions. DEM requested comments from the group on this policy.
The Director reviewed the Draft Environmental Inspection Guidelines. The guidelines were developed to provide staff guidance on how to balance the need to access private property for regulatory purposes with the need to respect private property interests while conducting field activities. One issue raised was DEM's approach to abandoned property. DEM is looking for additional comments on this policy.
Bob Ballou provided the group a legislative update and mentioned the need for support on the two high priority bills, i.e., Open Space and the Clean Water 2000 Bond funds. The Open Space Bond, if passed by the voters, will allow DEM to manage a $50M bond fund. With leveraging, DEM will be able to double the amount used for purchasing land, fund the development of recreational facilities and fund planning grants in communities throughout the state. The Clean Water Bond Fund ($12M) will help to replenish five existing funds that are almost depleted. He also mentioned about twenty other bills that were being tracked by the department that may be of interest to the business community.
Terry Maguire briefed the group on the FY 2001 DEM budget. The DEM budget of $67M is a four- percent decrease from last year. However the major decrease was the inability of DEM to carryover a $2.2M judgement from the Davis Liquid Superfund site that is still being adjudicated. There were increases in the General Revenue (1.2%) and Federal funds (8%) accounts. The Governor's Budget also includes fourteen new positions. Terry also briefed the group on fee increases at DEM managed recreation facilities along with a fee proposal for the RIPDES program.
The Director briefed the group on the DEM Bureau of Environmental Protection's regulatory agenda. The agenda provides a summary of rules and regulations the Department hopes to promulgate this calendar year. DEM will form stakeholder groups, as necessary, to provide input on many of the regulation packages. The Regulatory Agenda also contains information on who to contact for additional information. At the end of the presentation, Gary Ezovski raised the issue on why DEM's regulations are more stringent than federal requirements. He mentioned an instance where he has different permit conditions on the storage of tanker trucks in Rhode Island than in Massachusetts. This may be a good issue to study in our Waste Program permit streamlining efforts.
Gary Ezovski lead a discussion on the regulation of small tanks. Concerns were raised about the need for guidance of piping of underground tanks. The issue impacts small business and homer owners. Building inspectors and fire inspectors will not give approval for piping schemes. Ron Gagnon / Terry Gray were asked to investigate what other states were doing on this issue and then should meet with the industry to develop draft guidance. The director thought this was a pollution prevention opportunity.
Guy DeSaulniers updated the group on the environmental results program. This concept allows a business to find the most cost-effective way to meet environmental objectives and to certify compliance with standards set by the state. The role of government is then refocused to setting standards and ultimately enforcing them. Mr. DeSaulniers requested that this concept be evaluated as part of our Waste permit streamlining effort.
Ron Gagnon reported on DEM's efforts in implementing a program based on the environmental result concept. He is currently working with the auto body industry where compliance assistance and self-certification are key components of the program. He also mentioned that he is investigating expanding the program to cover the dry-cleaning, printing and photo-processing industries.
The director indicated that this process does not always require a permit. If DEM were to set standards and provide increased compliance guidance material, additional facilities will come into compliance. Enforcement provisions are linked to a CEO certification that the facility is operating in compliance of the rules. Failure to live up to the self-certification would place the CEO in a position to commit perjury.
Gary Ezovski led a discussion concerning the Brownfields program. There is a perception that DEM does not have the personnel to process permits in a timely manner. This is causing problems in getting sites remediated. The Director acknowledged that there are problems in Waste Management and Legal Services, but the program is still moving forward and there are some good examples of properties being cleaned.
The Director opened a discussion on Green House Gasses. He indicated that DEM would move forward with this program and this initiative will build on existing efforts within the department. DEM will be starting a stakeholder group in the next two to four weeks on this topic and are looking for people to work on this committee.
Rich Hittinger mentioned that there would be a major conference called Oceans 2000 that will convene in Providence this September.
The Director solicited input from the group concerning the format and topics of the Business Roundtable. He is looking for input from the business community and was seeking ways to improve this forum. The participants responded that the meetings were getting better and there will be a freer exchange of ideas as people get more comfortable with each other. In addition there was value in setting up DEM / business groups to work on solutions of problems of mutual concern.
The meeting was adjourned. The next meeting will be June 22, 2000.