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RIDEM Quarterly Business Roundtable Meeting Minutes
June 24, 1999

Director Jan Reitsma and Gary Ezovski called the June 24, 1999 meeting of the Quarterly Business Roundtable to order at 4:05 p.m. Those in attendance are noted on the attached list, which includes phone, fax and email detail where provided.

After introductory remarks by Reitsma and Ezovski each attendee made a brief introduction and noted basic reason(s) for taking time to participate in this and subsequent meetings. Among the remarks were the following:
  • Opportunity for input to DEM policy
  • Restricted account management, learn about DEM challenges
  • Opportunity for dialogue with regulators to promote understanding and common purpose
  • Awareness for alternative fuels
  • Accomplish better ability to move projects through the regulatory process
  • Help new businesses get established in Rhode Island
  • Work toward a user friendly DEM
  • Accomplish more expeditious DEM response through streamlining processes
  • Gain information and understand the business perspective

Consensus was established to hold the next two meetings on September 23, 1999 and January 6, 2000 at the same time and location.

Ron Gagnon of the RIDEM Office of Technical and Customer Assistance provided an overview of the purpose of his department. A handout was provided which summarized those remarks. For further promotion of cooperative effort, a suggestion was made that the Office post a calendar of RIDEM meetings on the RIDEM website. Gagnon indicated that could be pursued. Another suggestion was made to publicize the effort of the Technical and Customer Assistance effort since it seemed that only 1 in 100 might be aware of the program despite notices to date. Extended discussion took place about the protection provided to a company by a request for Technical Assistance involvement. The attorneys in the meeting were not comfortable with the current level of protection.

RIDEM's Terry Gray offered insight on an upcoming Global Enforcement policy. Terry advised that the Department is trying to find the appropriate balance between compliance assistance and effective enforcement. He offered that the department needs assistance in identifying metrics for compliance. The target is to minimize surprises for the regulated community and the regulators. A suggestion was made to create an inspector's guidebook. Director Reitsma recognized benefit could be found from appropriate training of inspectors. Discussion took place regarding potential effectiveness of a mediator/ombudsman. Director Reitsma indicated it should be a department objective to quickly issue notice of intent to enforce. Further suggestion by an attendee was offered that Department actions should promote an attitude of support for prompt, compliant response. An attendee indicated concern that it may be hard to have an enforcement agency and a compliance encouragement agency in the same Department. Director Reitsma disagreed with that perspective. Another attendee indicated hope that issuance of no further action letters in timely fashion could be an important part of the enforcement policy. Too often these letters are not issued even though all work is done and accepted. The Department members generally agreed that improvement in that area would be beneficial.

Fred Vincent of RIDEM offered comment on the Department's Data Quality and Consistency Program. He noted that a Stakeholder's Group was already established but new participants are welcome to help the Department find ways to accomplish effective electronic data management. Director Reitsma added comment that hopes included focus to have work processed simultaneously through shared access to permit application information instead of having one paper document that must be circulated in a one hurdle at a time fashion which now exists. The Director has asked the RI Bar Assoc. and Greg Benik for assistance in finding ways to further streamline the process since, as an attendee commented, the process itself must be assessed. Just adding computer processing may not eliminate some of the major stumbling points.

Director Reitsma shared some insight on the DEM reorganization bills in the legislature. It seems the House is focussed on punishing the Department while the Senate is focussed on granting authority with accompanying accountability. There is concern over legislative affirmation of associate directors and separation of powers. Business may be able to help by supporting a simple reorganization bill.

The Environmental Compliance Incentive Act was discussed with recognition that only one company has used the act since adoption. Mandate of notice to the Agency is the barrier to further use was the opinion of an attorney. It was also noted that the RI bill is tougher than the federal counterpart. On the positive side one member advised that even though many audits weren't done, the EPA has not challenged Rhode Island's bill. Other states have enacted legislation that has resulted in legal challenge by EPA. All attendees were encouraged to take a copy of the act with them to review before the next meeting and forward comments on small changes in the act that might make it a more attractive tool.

During the meeting attendees were asked to provide suggestions for other discussion issues for future meetings. The items offered for consideration are:
  • Wetlands - cut timelines and clarify requirements. Fees are not a major issue.
  • This roundtable may be able to assist by helping to meet training needs for staff.
  • Heating oil storage issues and solutions for preventing spills and leaks.
  • Maintaining staff talent and adequate number of personnel.
  • Organization of Waste Management Division
  • Permit streamlining and improved permit status communication.
  • Manpower redistribution to accommodate areas where process is slow
  • Coordination between divisions.
  • Preapplication assistance and one stop reviewing to promote compliant projects.
  • When is the arsenic standard going to be addressed?

Finally, eight attendees volunteered to participate in subcommittee activities oriented to permit streamlining, audit privilege and roundtable discussion planning.

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