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Presentation on theme: "STATE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE LAWS THE RHODE ISLAND EXPERIENCE."— Presentation transcript:


2 HOW THE WORK BEGAN  City of Providence seeks to build two schools on top of former Providence City Dump  Community Members Seek Legal Assistance From Rhode Island Legal Services (RILS)  RILS discovers a law to sue upon—Environmental Equity and Public Participation

3 ENVIRONMENTAL EQUITY AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION (1995)  The department of environmental management shall consider the effects that clean-ups would have on the populations surrounding each site and shall consider the issues of environmental equity for low income and racial minority populations.  The department of environmental management will develop and implement a process to ensure community involvement throughout the investigation and remediation of contaminated sites.

4 LAWSUIT FILED 1999 LAWSUIT WON 2005 DEM failed to consider environmental equity issues when it approved the clean up plan for the schools. DEM failed to provide a community involvement process during the investigation and clean up of the school site. Decision available at library/case/52700/52717/52717j.pdf library/case/52700/52717/52717j.pdf

5 COURT ORDERS DEM TO ESTABLISH STAKEHOLDER GROUP Group composed of tenants, land owners, environmental justice advocates, government officials and industry. Group charged to develop proposals for new laws, regulations and policies. Proposals were to relate to how DEM considered environmental justice and insure community involvement in the investigation and remediation of contaminated sites. Court order available at waste/springfd/041706co.pdf waste/springfd/041706co.pdf

6 FIRST ACHEIVEMENT: EJ POLICY FOR DEM’S SITE REMEDIATION PROGRAM Stakeholder Group develops policy statement for DEM. Policy provides for: Identification of Environmental Justice Focus Areas: Top 15% of census block groups with highest concentration of non-Whites or low income residents (below double the Federal Poverty Level). Enhanced outreach for sites in EJ Focus Areas (fact sheet and signage) Community can petition DEM to hold community meetings Establishment of on-line and hard copy document repositories Training of DEM staff on EJ issues Commitment to change regulations for Site Remediation Program Policy available at:

7 DEM HALTS WORK OF STAKEHOLDER GROUP / PLAINTIFFS RETURN TO COURT  DEM stops convening meetings of Stakeholder Group. DEM considered work of Stakeholder Group over.  EJ Policy remained in draft form.  Stakeholder Group not given an opportunity to develop proposals for regulations or legislation.  Plaintiffs file motion to adjudge DEM in contempt and seek appointment of special master to oversee Stakeholder Group.  On eve of hearing on Plaintiffs' motion, DEM folds and agrees to a new Court order.  Order requires DEM to finalize the draft EJ Policy and reconvene Stakeholder Group to finish its work.

8 SECOND ACHIEVEMENT: DEM AMENDS SITE REMEDIATION PROGRAM REGULATIONS WHY ADVOCATES SOUGHT CHANGES TO DEM REGULATIONS:  EJ Policy could not be enforced against third parties or DEM.  EJ Policy only applied to sites in Environmental Justice Focus Areas.  EJ Policy contemplated DEM changing its Site Remediation Program Regulations.

9 SECOND ACHIEVEMENT: DEM AMENDS SITE REMEDIATION PROGRAM REGULATIONS  Regulations commit DEM to consider EJ in contaminated site clean ups, defines the term “environmental justice” and “environmental justice focus areas.”  The Department's objective is to provide for proactive consideration of environmental justice concerns in order to help ensure that all communities have a strong voice in environmental decision-making relative to the investigations and remediation of property regardless of race, color national origin, English language proficiency, or income.  Environmental Justice shall mean the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, English language proficiency, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.  Environmental Justice Focus Areas shall mean areas defined by United States Census block groups that are in the highest fifteen percent (15%) of all Census block groups in Rhode Island with respect to the percent population identified as racial minorities or the highest fifteen percent (15%) of Rhode Island census block groups with respect to percent population with income identified as being twice the federal poverty level or below (utilizing the most recent and readily available data from the United States Census).

10 MORE ON DEM SITE REMEDIATION REGULATIONS Enshrines the EJ Policy into the Regulations so the provisions are enforceable:  Signage and Document Repositories  Site specific fact sheets  Community Meetings with translation provided by performing party.  Site Specific Community Involvement Plan: required when 25 residents sign petition requesting DEM Remediation Regulations available at:

11 SCHOOL SITING LEGISLATION  DEM felt it lacked authority to deny use of a site for a school.  Advocates wanted clear legal authority for DEM to say “NO” to a site.  DEM and advocates agreed that the most dangerous sites for schools were sites where vapor intrusion posed a threat to future users of school site.  DEM and advocates could not agree to exclude other contaminated sites for school use; but could agree to a rigorous environmental review of those other sites.

12 LEGISLATION PASSES ON THIRD TRY: 2012  Effectively bans schools on vapor intrusion sites by declaring that soil gas removal systems alone not sufficient remediation.  Provides for public process for vetting contaminated sites proposed for school use other than sites with vapor intrusion potential.  Process includes preparation of written report explaining rationale for using contaminated site for school and projected cost of remediating the site. 2012 law available at: 19.14/23-19.14-4.HTM 19.14/23-19.14-4.HTM


14 2013: SCHOOL SITING LAW MADE STRONGER  Gives DEM clear authority to deny use of vapor intrusion site for school unless source of vapors is physically removed or otherwise neutralized.  Requires use of passive sub slab ventilation system as a back up to removal.  Public process for vetting use of contaminated sites for schools now applies to vapor intrusion sites. 2013 School Siting Law available at: Text13/HouseText13/H5617Aaa.pdf Text13/HouseText13/H5617Aaa.pdf

15 Steven Fischbach Rhode Island Legal Services 401-274-2652 x-182 Thank you!


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