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RIDEM Quarterly Business Roundtable Meeting Minutes
June 22, 2000
On June 22, 2000, Director Reitsma and Gary Ezovski convened the summer meeting of the Business Roundtable at 235 Promenade Street in Room 300. The March meeting notes were reviewed and accepted as written. Attachment A is the list of attendees.
1. Workplan Update-Year to March 31, 2000
The Director briefed the participants on the status of the environmental offices in meeting our workplan objectives. The following topics were discussed:
a.) Office of Waste Management - Almost all tasks are on schedule.
b.) Office of Technical and Customer Assistance
c.) Office of Compliance and Inspection
d.) Office of Air Resources
e.) Office of Water Ð Alicia Good reported:
2. Budget Update
Fred Vincent gave a brief overview of the DEM budget. He said that all budgeted positions are moving forward. He mentioned that the open space bond request was for $34M spread out over five years and the bond request for water quality improvements was for $60M. This bonding, however, does not include funding for community planning or development of TMDLs. DEM is considering to request funds for water quality planning using the state budget supplemental process.
3. Environmental Compliance Incentive Act Update
Ron Gagnon updated the group on the Environmental Compliance Act. The main revision includes the elimination of the audit requirement. This was replaced by the requirement, under "due diligence", that all companies use an environmental management system as part of their normal business practice. The three-day notification requirement was eliminated since companies implementing an environmental management system would not require compliance audits.
The subcommittee will be meeting again during the summer to develop a strategy for legislative consideration in 2001.
4. Guidelines for Above Ground Fuel Oil Storage in Residential and Small Commercial Applications
Terry Gray has reviewed the draft guidelines and has set up a meeting on June 28th, at 11:00 AM at DEM with the people from Gill Services, to clarify a few technical issues.
Ron Gagnon conducted an Internet review of other state regulations. No specific policies or guidance on piping for small underground storage tanks was found. Most states refer to NFPA, API, and UL standards for product certification, design and installation of piping for underground tanks.
5. Interim Policy for Arsenic in Soil
There was a general discussion concerning the DEM policy for arsenic in soil. Arsenic is a naturally occurring substance found throughout Rhode Island. The regulatory problem is how to differentiate elevated levels of naturally occurring arsenic from spills. Terry Gray suggested that DEM has jurisdiction over a site if there is evidence of a spill. There would be a presumption that a spill occurred if the monitored value exceeded 7 ppm. Any soil that had arsenic levels less than 1.7 ppm would not trigger a regulatory response.
The Director mentioned that DEM was looking at a tiered approach that would also rely on best management practices to minimize contact with the soil. He was also interested in shifting some of the responsibility of site remediation efforts to environmental consultants. He thought that if consultants could certify their work as being accurate, it could lead to better submittal of plans and sites being cleaned up faster.
Participants raised the following concerns:
a.) The existing regulatory approach is not helpful in resolving the issue.
b.) Industrial sites take too long to be processed.
c.) It is often cost-prohibitive to clean up small sites.
d.) Virgin soil that is brought into a site can have higher levels of arsenic than the material being removed.
6. Permit Streamlining Update
Tom Getz gave a brief update on DEM's permit streamlining activities. The Wetlands Task Force draft final report was being circulated within DEM for internal review. As a result of this review, regulations will be revised and will include simplification of the permitting process and means to reduce the current iterative process caused by deficient applications. There needs to be a balance between getting "perfect applications" and a field presence to ensure projects are being built in compliance with their permits. The ISDS Task Force will be constituted in August to investigate streamlining activities in that program.
7. Critical Timelines for the Enforcement Process
The initial critical timelines for the enforcement process document that was drafted by DEM was considered to be too rigid and the proposed timelines were unrealistic. One issue about the critical timelines that needs to be addressed involves the timely progression of legally complex and difficult cases. These cases will not behave in accordance with the set norms and it is difficult to publish timelines for these cases. In order to address these complex cases, DEM is investigating setting the timelines as a distribution; so X percent of actions are completed within Y days, etc.
8. Draft Environmental Inspection Guidelines
The second draft of the guidelines provides clarifications on how we inform property owners or other regulated parties on the scope and nature of our inspections. Earlier drafts had been read in a manner that implied that we would ask permission in cases where we had a clear legal right to inspect. The changes are designed to reinforce the intent of the guidelines, which ensures inspectors understand the property rights issues and that property owners are treated with courtesy and respect. The guidelines are not meant to convey any new rights, or limit any existing rights, established by current state and federal law. The Director mentioned the issue of Administrative Warrants is being discussed with some members of the general assembly.
9. Legislative Update
The Director briefed the group on bills that DEM was tracking. He passed out information that gave DEM's position and status of the bills. He briefly discussed bills that:
Participants were encouraged that DEM was supportive of S2885aa, which promotes the rehabilitation of existing buildings. Director Reitsma indicated that support of this bill would help cities to rebuild existing structures rather than encouraging new building construction on farmlands. A concern was raised on the S 2957A, which deals with lead paint mitigation. The bill as currently worded would cause problems when older buildings are renovated.
A general question was raised concerning DEM's ability to track complaints and OTCA's use by the public. The group was informed that the Office of Compliance and Inspection has a complaint tracking system. Ron Gagnon mentioned that the OTCA receives almost 200 calls a day, and file reviews and pre-application meeting requests have increased. He now gets about two requests per week for pre-application meetings instead of the once per month usage rate when the office first offered the service.
10. Greenhouse gasses
The Director mentioned that DEM would be sponsoring a stakeholder steering group meeting on Greenhouse Gasses in July. We are working with the Department of Administration, Office of Statewide Planning and the Energy Office, among others, to look at opportunities to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions. These reductions will be sought through higher efficiency, conservation, renewable energy sources, and alternative transportation that result in increased competitiveness of Rhode Island businesses. Any new initiatives in this area will build on existing programs.
This issue was discussed as part of the budget briefing.
Other issues that were discussed include the following:
Terry Gray mentioned that the DEM enforcement summary was now located in DEM's website. We will be updating this monthly.
A question was raised if energy availability would be discussed in the July Green House Gas Meeting. The Director mentioned that the group would be focussing more on conservation and efficiency issues and availability was not a major issue that was going to be discussed.
The Director and Gary Ezovski both mentioned that they would encourage the expansion of this group and new members should be solicited by meeting participants.
The next meeting will be held in 235 Promenade St., Providence, Room 300, on September 28, 2000 at 3:30 PM.