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Home > Programs > Ombudsman > Business Roundtable > 6/18/01 Minutes


RIDEM Quarterly Business Roundtable Meeting Minutes
June 18, 2001

I. Old Business

1. Review of March Meeting Notes

The notes from the March meeting were reviewed. There were no comments received at the meeting or afterwards, therefore the meeting notes will be accepted as written.

2. Pollution Prevention Week

There was a brief discussion on Pollution Prevention week, which will be celebrated in the third week in September. Ron Gagnon mentioned that DEM would be looking for candidates to honor in both Environmental Leadership and Pollution Prevention categories. Gary Ezvoski indicated the willingness of the Northern RI Chamber of Commerce to help with the planning of this event. The Director briefly mentioned the results of the Tellus Corporation study of potential directions of a Project XL program in Rhode Island. This program will potentially target a sector of the business community that could help to alleviate an existing environmental problem. This will be a goal-oriented program that will be linked to specific environmental results.

3. Regulatory Agenda

Bob Ballou then briefed the group on the DEM Regulatory Agenda. The 2001 agenda was distributed to the group and Bob highlighted a few of the DEM regulatory initiatives. He mentioned the rewrite of the Wetlands regulations and changes to the ISDS regulations that resulted from the Permit Streamlining initiatives; Wastewater Treatment Facility Operation and Maintenance update and new dredge disposal regulation development.

4. Legislative Update

Bob Ballou and the Director commented on the progress of bills that DEM was tracking in the legislature and include the following:

  • Environmental Compliance Act - Passage of this bill looks good.

  • Pollution Prevention Tax Credit - The bill is currently in the House Finance Committee.

  • Administrative Search Warrant - Past the Senate and was assigned to House Judiciary

  • Habitat Restoration - This bill is moving along.

  • Fisheries Management - There was an extensive stakeholder process and the bill is in the Joint Committee of the Environment.

  • Dam Safety- There was extensive stakeholder involvement on this issue. There is a need to update the existing authority that is needed to repair aging dams. The responsibilities of dam owners, municipalities and DEM need to be clarified.

  • Dredging - The bill will be heard on Wednesday. The bill focuses on the Providence River and marinas. CRMC is slated to be the lead agency but DEM will be involved in the regulatory decision making process. The bill requires beneficial reuse and an upland de-watering site. The dredged material will no longer be regulated as a solid waste, but will have its own disposal requirements that will allow it to be managed for upland disposal. The bill will designate the state as being responsible for infrastructure for in-water / upland disposal and de-watering facilities. DEM will be responsible for revising the solid waste regulations. Terry Gray mentioned that capping projects approved under the Site Remediation Regulations would allow the use of clean dredge material.

  • DEM Budget - Although not a legislative issue, the Director indicated the DEM budget was reviewed in the legislature. At this point in time there were no major problems identified. The budget included $400,000 for the completion of the permit streamlining initiative. (Subsequent to this meeting, this funding was deleted from the DEM budget.) He mentioned that planning grants to municipalities for dam safety purposes was not included in DEM's budget. He had envisioned a revolving loan program to be used for these purposes. Since the Dam safety legislation was not moving forward, the use of funds for planning purposes was determined to be premature.
II. New Business

1. DEM Workplan

The director solicited comments from the group on the draft DEM workplan and said DEM is sponsoring two public workshops to collect input on the plan. This document focuses on the strategic direction of DEM, and integrates both the state and federal environmental goals. This plan does not include any major infusions of new employees, but recognizes the need for DEM to increase its presence with respect to public outreach and education. DEM is in the process of developing a public outreach and education plan. The Director also anticipates that there will be an update (or a progress report?) of the work plan every six months. Gary Ezvoski mentioned that he was pleased to see that dredging was a high priority for DEM. This is an important issue that needs a long-term solution.

2. Waste Site Remediation Permit Streamlining Task Force Update

Terry Gray and Leo Hellested updated the group on the Waste Site Remediation Permit Streamlining Task Force. Their report included an update on the Marginal Risk Site and Arsenic Policies and Brownfields.

Marginal Risk Site Policy

Implementation of the Marginal Risk Site Policy will streamline the way DEM reviews projects that do not pose significant environmental or human health risks. This will be a more efficient process and resources that are currently used to review "marginal risk sites" can be diverted to reviewing projects that have a significant environmental impact.

DEM is establishing review time guidelines for "marginal risk sites". The proposed policy Primarily applies to sites that are located in a GB groundwater aquifer. It encourages the removal of waste material and sets information requirements for the Site Investigation Report and presumptive remedies that should be used at the site. Applications that adequately address these requirements will be reviewed by DEM within 45 days.

Review guidelines are predicated on DEM receiving complete submissions that are of sufficient quality to review. If these submissions do not address all the elements of the policy, DEM will reject the submission as a "marginal risk site" and will evaluate it in the normal process where there are no firm time review guidelines or presumptive remedies.

The Marginal Risk Site Policy addresses properties that are primarily located in areas that have a GB groundwater designation. (Properties located in a GA area can apply for the policy if the source of contamination is removed.) A question was asked when was the last time these designations were reviewed. Alicia Good indicated that these areas would be reviewed in the next year.

Arsenic Policy

As a result of discussions and evaluation of the six-month pilot program, DEM will modify its existing Arsenic Policy. During the six-month review time period twelve sites were approved under the existing policy. The policy was working but it was difficult to rationalize the need to remediating releases that were lower than the background level of the site. The old policy also did not address standards from virgin sites that were retail or wholesale providers of soil. The policy will keep the existing policy for residential uses for properties. DEM will propose a regulatory change to raise the level to 7 PPM for sites that will be used for industrial / commercial applications.


  • DEM was finalizing a model Settlement Agreement. Use of this document will allow the remediation of Brownfields sites to begin quicker since the amount of legal review will be reduced.

  • DEM will be encouraging the use of pre-application meetings to scope out projects. This meeting and the development of a submission checklist will be helpful in increasing submission quality and allow DEM to make decisions on submissions faster than the current practice.

  • The public notification process was reviewed to determine the appropriate level of public involvement, i.e. public hearing vs. public notice. There are three public notice requirements in the site remediation process, i.e., at the time when a responsible party initiates and investigation at a site, when the investigation is completed and a remedy is proposed, and, if and when a Brownfields Settlement Agreement is entered.

    The first requirement for notice is at the time of initiation of an investigation, and is applicable in cases where the DEM had compelled the investigation. However, this requirement does not yet apply if the site is not yet jurisdictional. Public notification at this stage of a project is rarely done.

    The second notification occurs at the time of completion of the investigation and when the remedy is proposed. Notice is only required to abutters to the project site. This notice should be expanded to include all tenants at abutting properties and notification to the municipal government.

    The performing party publishes the notice concerning the Settlement Agreement in the legal notices of the newspaper but this method rarely reached the public effectively. In these cases, it may be necessary to amend the regulations or for DEM to take the lead on facilitating more public involvement.

  • DEM has strengthened its ties with the Economic Development Corporation through the development of a joint website ( that is dedicated to Brownfields issues. In addition, the two agencies have strengthened their working relationship by naming Brownfields contacts in each agency, i.e., Kelly Owens in DEM and Adrienne Southgate in EDC.

  • EDC received a one million-dollar award from EPA to be used as a revolving loan fund to for developing Brownfields properties.

  • Sandra Whitehouse mentioned that a Brownfields Commission has been formed to study the issue. This will be a good way to inform Rhode Island political leaders on the benefits of a strong state Brownfields program.

3. General Duty Clause

Gina Friedman of the Office of Air Resources briefed the group on the provisions of the General Duty Clause of the Clean Air Act. This section of the Act requires owners and operators of stationary sources to identify hazards, and to prevent, and minimize the effects of accidental releases of extremely hazardous substances. This requirement is a federally enforced program, but DEM staff is available to work with industry groups or companies to help them to comply with this program.

This requirement applies to any facility where any quantities of any extremely hazardous substances are present. The general duty clause is a performance-based requirement and recognizes that owners and operators have primary responsibility in the prevention of chemical accidents. As part of this responsibility, many industries have developed standards and generally recognized safe practices to manage the risks associated with these substances. EPA believes that owners and operators who have these substances must adhere, at a minimum, to recognized industry standards and practices (as well as any government regulations) in order to be in compliance with the general duty clause. This regulation requires each facility to develop expertise in the materials they store and use in order to prevent accidental releases.

Difficulties with Compliance

Some of the difficulties with compliance include:

  • The broad scope of the regulation,

  • A facility must address specific conditions that are not necessarily addressed by industry standards,

  • There is not a specific definition of extremely hazardous substance (it goes beyond EPA's "list"), and

  • There is no minimum quantity of these substances necessary for regulation.

Finally, there may be situations in which an existing industry standard or practice is simply inadequate to prevent accidents, and here the EPA may exercise its authority to require a company to implement additional measures to address the hazard. This can present problems because many small businesses lack the expertise and staff to effectively comply with the requirements, although they continue to use these substances. Gina mentioned that the use of anhydrous ammonia in school hockey rinks and chlorine used in industrial processes could be serious problems in the event of a leak. The director agreed and indicated that DEM and industry needs to be proactive to prevent problems from occurring.

There was a brief discussion on the timing of future meetings and a new schedule will be developed. The existing schedule needs to be revised since a number of topics such as the budget, regulatory agenda, annual report and work plan, are completed after the usual Roundtable meeting. Tom Getz and Gary Ezvoski will work on a new schedule for the next year.

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